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Shark Lawyers – Sea Shepherd’s legal project


SSCS Galapagos Director Alex Cornelissen (left) and Attorney General Dr. Washington Pesantez at the Criminal Environmental Law conference organized by Sea Shepherd, May, 2010

Like Whale Wars in the Antarctic and Operation Blue Rage in the Mediterranean, since 2010 Sea Shepherd has given legal battle against poaching, shark fining, smuggling and activities involving other forms of illegal fishing in the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR).

Based upon the United Nations World Charter for Nature, the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador, the Special Law of Galapagos, and the Penal Code of Ecuador, we have used all legal weapons at our disposal within the Ecuadorian law to work on behalf of those who cant speak for themselves at courtrooms: sharks and other wildlife species.

Our mission has been to advocate on behalf of the sharks and other species, ultimately aiming at getting environmental criminals behind bars. It, however, has not been an easy nor a simple task: Not all lawyers, prosecutors, and judges are skilled in environmental issues. Procedural law does not help either, as it includes certain options, such as bail, available to those violating environmental laws. Once released, the suspects have often disappeared from the islands, leaving the penal cases suspended.

Administrative sanctions, although effectively applied by environmental authorities, have not prevented lawbreakers from continuing and even returning to the GMR for their illegal activities. This is why criminal environmental law must be further considered as a tool for conservation in Galapagos.

Since 2010, we have monitored some of the most emblematic cases that are being prosecuted by official authorities at local courts: Papate (183 protected sharks), Fer Mary I (357 protected sharks), Reina del Cisne (81 protected sharks), Siempre Angelito VI (28 protected sharks), and the iguana case (4 protected, endemic land iguanas). Using a legal tool known as Amicus Curiae, we have provided specialized legal arguments on environmental laws and international treaties applied to these cases. Together with other conservation actors, we even went all the way to the Supreme Court of Ecuador in an effort to clarify judicial procedures applied to environmental crimes in Galapagos.

Since 2010, we have also persistently advocated for judicial specialization of Galapagos, in the form of the creation of first judiciary specialized on environmental and nature rights.

In 2013 we will continue working on behalf of all marine life and against those who don’t seem to understand that the Galapagos and its marine reserve are PROTECTED AREAS under Ecuadorian law and a World Natural Heritage Site.


Conference: Criminal Environmental Law as a Conservation Tool in Galapagos and the Region

Sea Shepherd organized a conference titled Criminal Environmental Law as a Conservation Tool
in Galapagos and the Region
 on May 5-7, 2010, in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island. During the
conference, the Attorney General of Ecuador, Dr. Washingon Pesantez, announced the designation
of the first-ever prosecutor specialized in environmental law for the province of Galapagos.

Read: New Environmental Prosecutor For Galapagos

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