QUITO – Ecuadorian authorities arrested seven foreigners after finding a total of 1,313 processed sea cucumbers inside their luggage, the Galapagos National Park Service said Friday.
Airport X-ray scanners detected “strange packages” inside the baggage of the seven passengers boarding a flight to mainland Ecuador, the park management said in a statement.
The tourists were taken into custody and will faces charges.
The sea cucumber is a protected species included in Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, of which Ecuador is a signatory.
Galapagos is home to 37 species included in CITES’ appendices.
Sea cucumber fishing is authorized in certain seasons, depending on the results of a population study and under strict controls, park management said.
Located roughly 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off the coast of continental Ecuador, the Galapagos archipelago comprises a marine and land reserve covering 132,000 sq. kilometers (50,965 sq. miles).
The islands, which were declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in 1978, were made famous by 19th-century British naturalist Charles Darwin, whose observations of life on the islands contributed greatly to his theory of evolution and natural selection. EFE