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Chinese fishing vessels turned off tracking devices near Galapagos

A recent report by the US organisation Oceana states unequivocally that Chinese fishing vessels have deliberately switched off their tracking devices when fishing near the Galapagos Islands, so as to conceal their real position. An analysis by the Oceana organisation found that nearly 300 Chinese ships are plundering the waters of the Galapagos Marine Reserve,
Published: October 20, 2020 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 21:21
Chinese fishing vessels turned off tracking devices near Galapagos

A recent report by the US organisation Oceana states unequivocally that Chinese fishing vessels have deliberately switched off their tracking devices when fishing near the Galapagos Islands, so as to conceal their real position.

An analysis by the Oceana organisation found that nearly 300 Chinese ships are plundering the waters of the Galapagos Marine Reserve, mainly in search of squid, which are essential to the diet of iconic local species such as seals and hammerhead sharks, as well as many species of fish, including tuna and terns, which contribute to the local economy.

Using Global Fishing Watch, an independent non-profit organisation founded by Oceana in partnership with Google and SkyTruth (a mapping tool), Oceana analysed data from fishing vessels registered near the Galapagos Islands from 13 July to 13 August 2020.

During that one month, the organisation documented that the Chinese fleet, which mainly fished for squid, recorded a total of over 73,000 hours of fishing. In fact, 99% of the apparent fishing activity in the Galapagos Islands during the period analysed was done by Chinese-flagged vessels.

As part of the analysis, Oceana has also documented that Chinese vessels are likely disabling their tracking devices, providing conflicting vessel identification information and engaging in potentially suspicious transshipment practices that may enable illegal activities.

Between 13 July and 13 August, there were 43 cases in which Chinese fishing vessels with AIS transponders switched off their AIS system. The average AIS signal interruption was two days. The vessel with the longest interruption in AIS detection, 17 days, was also potentially involved in a refrigerated transshipment incident a few hours before the AIS shutdown, the report authors said

Graphic showing AIS signals of the Chinese fishing fleet in the Galapagos Islands
Map of the AIS signals of the Chinese fishing fleet present in the Galapagos Photo Ocreana

According to Oceana, the above graphic shows instances where vessels appear to disable AIS (indicated in yellow) and then reappear (indicated in green). When the AIS is turned off, vessels may pass into Ecuador’s Exclusive Economic Zone to fish or hide transhipment events.

For a month the world watched and wondered what the huge Chinese fishing fleet was doing off the coast of the Galapagos Islands, but now we know. This massive and ongoing fishing effort by the Chinese fleet is threatening the Galapagos Islands, the rare species for which they are home and all who depend on them for food and livelihood. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impact that China’s huge fleet is having on our oceans. The situation in the Galapagos should raise serious questions and concerns about the impact of China’s huge fishing fleet on the oceans, concluded Dr Marli Valentine, illegal fishing analyst at Oceana

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About author

Marcin Pawełczyk
Marcin’s journey with diving has been an adventure. Starting as a recreational diver, he soon found himself drawn to the fascinating stories and mysteries of Baltic wrecks. After gaining experience, Marcin decided to go beyond just leisurely exploration and took his training up a notch by completing the TMX course, allowing him to explore even deeper and uncover the secrets of inaccessible places. His next challenge has been cave diving, where he is honing his skills to become a certified diver. Not content to simply take in the breathtaking beauty of underwater life, Marcin has also embraced underwater photography since 2018, capturing stunning shots that bring these worlds alive for those who are unable to experience them first-hand. Marcin’s passion for the underwater has taken him far and is sure to continue doing so as he dives into new depths and captures breathtaking images.
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