Image: Dead sharks from fishing vessel
Galapagos National Park
Some of the more than 300 sharks found aboard a fishing vessel are seen at dock in the Galapagos.
msnbc.com
updated 7/22/2011 3:45:25 PM ET 2011-07-22T19:45:25

Some 30 fishermen caught with 357 dead sharks aboard their rundown vessel inside Galapagos National Park now face criminal charges, park officials said.

A patrol by park rangers and an Ecuador navy ship detained the vessel Monday night as it fished 20 miles inside the Galapagos Marine Reserve, the park said in a statement.

Shark fishing, as well as any commercial-scale fishing, is illegal inside the park and its marine reserve.

John Bruno, a University of North Carolina marine biologist teaching at the Galapagos Science Center, wrote on his blog that the park had declared it the largest shark seizure in its history.

"As sad as it is," he wrote, "I am really encouraged that the park now has the capacity to detect and apprehend illegal fishers in the marine reserve."

The species found were: 286 bigeye thresher, 22 blue sharks, 40 Galapagos sharks, 6 hammerhead sharks, 2 tiger sharks, and 1 mako shark.

Illegal shark fishing in Ecuador and other countries helps feed a demand for shark fin soup in Asia. The practice has put pressure on many shark species, some of which have become endangered or threatened with extinction.

In the Galapagos, illegal shark fishing and finning — the act of cutting off the fins — took off in the late 1990s when the local sea cucumber fishery collapsed.

The Galapagos, an island chain made famous by Charles Darwin and his "Origin of Species," was declared a U.N. World Heritage site in 1979.

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