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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 March, 2004, 13:29 GMT
Minister quits amid Galapagos row
Shark fins confiscated from a fishing boat in waters around the Galapagos in 1998
Fishermen wanted the right to sell fins from sharks accidentally caught in nets
Ecuador's environment minister has stepped down amid controversy over fishing rights in the waters around the protected Galapagos islands.

Cesar Narvaez said he had resigned for personal reasons, but his announcement follows charges that he had bowed to pressure from striking fishermen.

The fishermen - who last week took more than 30 scientists hostage - want rules on fishing in Galapagos waters relaxed.

Environmentalists say laxer laws could harm the islands' fragile ecosystem.

In a statement, Ecuador's presidency reportedly said that Mr Narvaez resigned "for strictly personal reasons".

But, according to the Reuters news agency, a source close to the minister said he quit because of political pressures inside the government.

It had been reported that the minister had signed a pact with fishermen to end their week-long strike, during which the fishermen had taken 33 scientists - and several giant tortoises - hostage on the islands.

Darwin's islands

The fishermen were demanding changes to the law to allow long-line fishing and the sale of shark fins.

But environmentalists were enraged that the minister had apparently at least considered, if not agreed to, the relaxation of fishing laws.

The islands are internationally recognised as a key centre of conservation, both for their many native species and because they were so crucial in the development of Charles Darwin's ground-breaking theory of evolution.

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14 May 03  |  Science/Nature
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24 Sep 02  |  Sci/Tech
Darwin's finches at risk
08 Nov 02  |  Sci/Tech
Glory of the Galapagos
22 Jan 01  |  Americas

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