Navy in Ecuador investigates large Chinese fishing fleet off Galapagos

ABOARD ECUADOREAN NAVY AIRCRAFT (Reuters) – Ecuador’s navy oversees a massive Chinese fishing fleet operating near the protected waters of the Galapagos Islands, thanks to the environmental impact of fishing in ‘ t area of ​​the ecologically sensitive islands.

A fishing boat is spotted from an Ecuadorian navy plane after a fishing fleet of most Chinese-flagged ships was discovered in an international corridor bordering the exclusive economic zone of the Galapagos Islands, in the Pacific Ocean, August 7, 2020. REUTERS / Santiago Arcos

The navy on Friday launched a patrol force that included a flyover from the region where the hulking fishermen fish, as well as reconnaissance by military patrol ships. A total of 340 ships are currently in the area, the Navy said, compared to some 260 reported last month.

Images taken as part of the flyover, which included journalists, showed that at least one of the ships was damaged and needed maintenance.

Ecuador’s Navy Commander, Rear Admiral Darwin Jarrin, said the navy had approached Colombia and Peru to share information and seek a regional response for the ships, most of which could hold up to 1,000 tonnes of catch.

The fleet generally spends several weeks fishing off the coast of Peru before approaching the Galapagos.

The fishing fleet has been arriving in the summer months since 2017 and fishes just outside the territorial waters of the Galapagos, drawn by marine species such as the endangered hammerhead shark.

Such fishing is not illegal because it takes place in international waters. But environmental activists say the floats could take advantage of the abundant marine species that overflow from the Galapagos and cross into unprotected waters.

“This is not something that will change overnight,” Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Luis Gallegos said in a televised interview on Sunday. “It is necessary … to generate bilateral agreements with other countries regarding illegal fishing, in order to control every ship that is in the South Pacific.”

A Chinese ship was captured in 2017 in the Galapagos Marine Reserve with 300 tons of marine game.

China has promised a “zero tolerance” approach to illegal fishing and has proposed a moratorium on fishing in the area between September and November. The fishing flights usually leave the area for that period.

The Galapagos Islands, located about 1,000 km (620 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, are home to many unique species, including giant turtles, and serve as inspiration for 19th-century British scientist Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Additional Report by Alexandra Valencia in Quito, written by Brian Ellsworth; Edited by Sandra Maler

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