Ecuador Lifts Galapagos Sea Cucumber Fishing Ban
QUITO, Ecuador Ecuador Tuesday lifted a ban on the fishing of lucrative sea cucumbers from the Galapagos islands in a move that environmental groups have said could threaten conservation efforts.
The authorization by the Galapagos reserve management authority will permit fisherman from the islands to capture up to three million sea cucumbers in 60 days from June 12.
The decision ends a prohibition on fishing of sea cucumbers -- spiny tubular creatures that are widely sought after in Asia for their supposed aphrodisiac effects -- put in place for 2005 and 2006.
"We decided to open fishing of sea cucumbers, mainly due to social and economic considerations," Ecuador's Environment Minister Ana Alban told reporters.
The decision comes after local fishermen threatened to stage a strike in the world-famous islands, which inspired 19th century British naturalist Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection.
Environmental organizations have warned sea cucumbers need to be protected from overfishing.
Sea cucumber and lobster fishing are one of the main income sources for the 18,000 residents of the Galapagos, considered one of the most important biological reserves in the world.
Last year, an Ecuadorean judge overturned a cap which allowed fishermen to catch 4 million sea cucumbers during a 60-day period.
In the past, sea cucumber fishing had been seasonal and prohibited for much of the year, but authorities had banned it for 2005-2006.
Fisherman have frequently asked for unlimited fishing rights for the sea cucumber, a species threatened by a growing illegal market fed by massive consumer demand in Asia.
The islands, located 625 miles west of Ecuador's coast, are facing growing tensions between fisherman seeking to make a living and environmentalists struggling to protect the island from overdevelopment.