QUITO, Ecuador — The captain of a tanker that ran aground and dumped nearly 240,000 gallons of diesel fuel off the Galapagos Islands was sentenced Wednesday to 90 days in jail and stripped of his maritime license.
Tarquino Arevalo, 58, will serve his sentence in a naval prison, according to a statement from naval authorities on San Cristobal Island, where the tanker Jessica still sits 1,500 feet offshore.
The vessel ran aground in January and listed for three days before rough surf forced nearly all of its oil to leak into the surrounding waters.
Favorable winds and sea currents helped push most of the slick out to sea, narrowly averting an environmental catastrophe in the ecologically fragile Galapagos Islands--famous for unique and isolated animal species that helped inspire Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
Arevalo was convicted of violating several maritime laws, including failing to maintain adequate emergency prevention measures on board the tanker and approaching the shore with his radar turned off, the statement said.
Although scientists say the spill could have been much worse, the long-term environmental damage to the islands, about 600 miles west of the Ecuadorean mainland, remains unclear.
One far-reaching threat is that sunken fuel could have destroyed algae vital to the food chain. That could threaten marine iguanas, sharks and birds that feed off fish and other species, officials say.
Local authorities have not decided whether to leave the tanker's emptied hull in the water to form a reef or to try to remove it, which would be costly and difficult.