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Galapagos alert - 260 fishing vessels from China have appeared in the region

Ecuador has raised the alarm after the country’s navy discovered a huge fishing fleet of mostly Chinese-flagged vessels about 200 miles from the Galapagos Islands, the archipelago that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Some 260 ships are currently in international waters, just outside the 188-mile-wide exclusive economic zone around the island. Their presence is
Published: August 14, 2020 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 20:45
Galapagos alert – 260 fishing vessels from China have appeared in the region

Ecuador has raised the alarm after the country’s navy discovered a huge fishing fleet of mostly Chinese-flagged vessels about 200 miles from the Galapagos Islands, the archipelago that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Some 260 ships are currently in international waters, just outside the 188-mile-wide exclusive economic zone around the island. Their presence is causing serious concern among Ecuadorian authorities and raises the prospect of serious damage they could do to the fragile marine ecosystem here.

Chinese vessel caught in Argentina illegally fishing divers24.co.uk
ARA Bouchard escorting Chinese fishing vessel caught in illegal fishing, May 2020 photo by Argentina’s Foreign Ministry

.

The size and aggressiveness of this fleet towards marine species poses a major threat to the sustainability of species in the Galapagos, said former Environment Minister Yolanda Kakabadse

As soon as the Chinese fleet was discovered, the Ecuadorian navy began surveillance of its activities in the immediate vicinity of the protected waters of the Galapagos Islands. The surveillance included a patrol mission, which involved flying over the region where the huge vessels were fishing, as well as reconnaissance by military patrol.

Ecuador’s naval commander, Rear Admiral Darwin Jarrin, said the navy had approached Colombia and Peru to share information about the Chinese fleet, and to establish a common position between the countries in the region to respond to the appearance of such a large number of fishing vessels, most of which can hold up to 1,000 tonnes of catch.

Hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels in Galapagos divers24.co.uk
A huge Chinese fishing fleet gathered off the coast of the Galapagos Islands Photo: Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry

The Chinese vessels have been arriving since 2017 and usually spend several weeks fishing off the coast of Peru before reaching the Galapagos. They fish at the edge of Galapagos territorial waters, where fishermen are attracted by the presence of specific species, such as the endangered hammerhead shark.

In 2017, a Chinese vessel was stopped in the Galapagos marine reserve carrying 300 tonnes of marine animals. China then promised “zero tolerance” for illegal fishing and proposed a moratorium on fishing in the area from September to November. Fishing fleets usually leave the region at the end of summer.

The appearance of such a large fleet has forced the Chinese embassy in Ecuador to make an official announcement:

China understands, respects and supports the measures taken by Ecuador to protect the environment and marine resources. As a responsible fishing country, China takes strict precautionary and control measures. After consultation with the Chinese authorities and verification with the Ecuadorian Navy, all Chinese fishing boats operate legally on the high seas outside the exclusive economic zone of the Galapagos Islands and pose no threat to anyone.

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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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