Tortoises held hostage as lobster war turns nasty

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The world's least likely hostage stand-off was taking place last night in the Galapagos Islands, where Charles Darwin made the discoveries that formed the basis of his theory of evolution.

The world's least likely hostage stand-off was taking place last night in the Galapagos Islands, where Charles Darwin made the discoveries that formed the basis of his theory of evolution.

An angry mob of fishermen has taken a group of giant tortoises hostage in an increasingly bitter row over how many lobsters they can catch off the islands in the Pacific Ocean.Boat owners have attacked the islands' conservation centresover the lobster quotas imposed by Ecuador which governs the islands.

The rare tortoises were being bred in captivity by scientists at the Charles Darwin Research Centre who are trying to stem decades of decline: 200 years ago buccaneers used to fill their ships' holds with live tortoises for fresh meat.

Since then the tortoises, that live for up to 170 years and can weigh over 600lbs, have also suffered from rats and goats introduced by settlers. Now they face irate locals with a grievance. E-mails sent yesterday to the Galapagos Conservation Trust in London described how scientific installations were attacked, municipal offices ransacked and tourists threatened.

"The Galapagos National Park personnel barricaded themselves in their HQ and the small police contingent - 35 men - helped to keep at bay the throngs of fishermen who repeatedly tried to storm the premises on Santa Cruz, as they had already done on Isabela and San Cristobal Islands," said Tui De Roy, a wildlife photographer who has lived in the islands for 40 years.

Fishermen want a complete lifting of the lobster quota of 54 tons, an expansion of the fishing grounds and the dropping of police charges against them.

Conservationists claim the number of mainland fishermen has risen from about 500 to 940, making the quota unworkable.

Comments