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A Chinese fishing boat was caught illegally carrying thousands of dead sharks in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.

The Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 vessel was loaded with approximately 300 tons of fish, including endangered hammerhead and silky sharks, according to a statement by Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment. Twenty crew members were arrested and could face up to three years in prison for trafficking protected species.

Fishing is prohibited in the Galapagos National Park, which is a UNESCO world heritage site and marine sanctuary with the largest concentration of sharks in the world.


Image: News from World via YouTube

The authorities are still investigating where exactly the fish were caught.

“Not necessarily all of the catch came from the marine reserve, but the fact that it included young sharks, even baby sharks, indicates that they could have been caught inside the reserve,” said Tarsicio Granizo, Ecuador’s Minister of Environment.

At more than 300 feet long, the Chinese boat is the largest vessel ever seized in the Galapagos. Officials believe it is a “mothership,” meaning it collects fish from other small boats so that they can stay at sea longer, National Geographic reports.

Despite the heavy restrictions in protected areas like the Galapagos, illegal trade of sharks remains a big problem driven by the demand for shark meat and fins in Asia, where they are considered a delicacy.