Massive seizure of illegal sharks made in Galapagos Islands

Crew members aboard a Chinese-flagged ship in the Galapagos Islands have been handed almost $6 million in fines plus jail time after what Quartz calls "likely one of the biggest seizures of illegal sharks in recent years." Investigators boarded the Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 in the Galapagos Marine Reserve on Aug. 13 and found 300 tons of marine species on board, including 6,600 dead sharks, reports NPR.

The reserve has "the highest abundance of sharks known in the world," per National Geographic, but Quartz notes the vessel was likely only transporting the haul as it did not have the necessary equipment to catch such large quantities of silky, thresher, mako, and what are believed to be endangered hammerhead sharks.

It's possible the sharks were brought aboard in unauthorized transshipments along the vessel's route to the Galapagos. But a marine ecologist at the reserve suspects they were fished nearby "based on the trajectory of the boat" and a fleet of 100 foreign fishing boats found in international waters to the south.

Baby sharks found among the haul, however, may suggest fishing did occur within the reserve, which is a hammerhead breeding ground. Contrary to authorities, a Chinese Foreign Ministry rep says the vessel's 20 Chinese crew members didn't fish in the reserve and were simply unaware of Ecuadorian rules when they entered it without permission, per Reuters.

They were convicted of possessing and transporting protected species on Monday. (Video of a shark being dragged in Florida drew outrage.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Found in Galapagos Reserve: Boat Carrying 6K Dead Sharks