National Geographic

Thousands of Sharks Found on a Boat in Illegal Operation

The staggering number of sharks found on this boat might put these guys over the daily limit.

It was 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday when marine ecologist Pelayo Salinas caught glimpse of something fishy in the waters of the Galapagos National Park.

The waters are restricted for scientific use only, so when a large unknown vessel was spotted, it peaked Salina's interest.

The patrol ship he was on, along with an Ecuadorian Navy officer, radioed the vessel to find out what it was doing in the restricted area. Radio silence. After three unanswered attempts to make contact, the group jumped into a 13-foot inflatable boat and sped after the large vessel.

The boat was quickly identified as Chinese. After this identification, the group had strong suspicions of illegal fishing activity. Why do you ask?

The Galapagos National Park is a marine sanctuary where no fishing is allowed. It's also known to hold the largest population of sharks in the entire world. With a strong demand for shark fin and other shark meat, the area is often a prime target for risk-seeking Asian anglers.

The small Zodiac boat the group was in couldn't keep up with the large vessel. The group abandoned the chase and radioed back to park headquarters. Park officials, with help from the Navy, quickly identified the vessel on surveillance equipment. Walter Bustos, director of the National Park, said the group quickly sprung into action.

A Shocking Find

Within minutes, a Navy helicopter and coast guard boats were in hot pursuit. Upon catching up with the boat, they found something no one will soon forget.

"There were thousands, if not tens of thousands of sharks," Salinas told reporters. "The biggest seizure of sharks in the history of the Galapagos, for sure."

The members of the 20-person crew from the Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 vessel were all arrested. The boat is what's considered a mother ship. These are large vessels that collect fish from smaller vessels so they can stay out at sea for extended periods of time. It's over 300 feet long. Many of its six cargo holds were completely full of sharks.

According to log books, there were more than 300 tons of fish aboard.

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