updated 9/28/2004 11:36:00 AM ET 2004-09-28T15:36:00

Galapagos park rangers ended a 17-day protest Monday after Ecuador’s government fired a new park director the rangers claimed favored commercial fishing over the islands’ unique environment.

The government decided to remove Fausto Cepeda from the post after meeting with representatives of the 300 park rangers, Environmental Minister Fabian Valdivieso said.

The government said earlier that Cepeda would have to step down after dozens of club-wielding fishermen last week violently cleared his path past park guards who had been blocking the way in peaceful protest.

Park guards launched their protest on Sept. 10 after learning that the government planned to replace respected biologist Edwin Naula with Cepeda.

Environmentalists criticized the leadership change as an appeasement to commercial fishermen, who oppose catch limits for lucrative sea cucumbers, which are sold as aphrodisiacs in Asia.

Valdivieso named park biologist Victor Carrion to serve as interim director. He’ll oversee the Pacific islands’ fragile ecosystem, which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

The islands, Ecuador’s top tourist destination, are 620 miles west of the mainland.

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