On the night of June 30th, 2009, the commercial tuna boat Don Mario, from the fishing port of Manta in Ecuador, was caught fishing inside the Galapagos Marine Reserve. At the time of capture, the vessel was 30 miles inside the protected waters of the National Park and had its nets out in the water. Inside their nets the National Park Rangers discovered not only tuna but also numerous other species including sea turtles.
The vessel was detected thanks to the new satellite monitoring system that is being used inside the Marine Reserve. This new system is mandatory for all Ecuadorian vessels over 20 tons and all movements are monitored in the control center. The vessel was seen slowing down and making irregular movements and immediately the National Park sent out a patrol to check on the fishing vessels activity.
The Don Mario was given permission to cross the waters of the Marine Reserve by the navy. Unfortunately, it is quite common for commercial vessels from Ecuador to pass through these waters on what is called an “innocent pass.” This time it appears their pass wasn’t so innocent.
The Don Mario has been ordered into port of Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island where it is officially being charged for fishing illegally inside the Galapagos Marine Reserve. The owner of the vessel has commented that his ship was fixing its engines at the time of capture and wasn’t fishing. Since they actually had their nets in the water, this statement will not hold up in court.