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A massive Chinese fishing fleet is under surveillance near Galapagos over ecological concerns

11:25 | 10/08/2020

A fishing fleet of China is under the surveillance of Ecuador's navy over concerns about impacts on the environment in the ecologically sensitive islands.

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Ecuador's navy is conducting surveillance of a massive Chinese fishing fleet that is operating near the protected waters of the Galapagos Islands, amid concerns about the environmental impact of fishing in the area of the ecologically sensitive islands, Reuters reported.

The navy conducted a patrol mission on August 7 that included a flyover of the region where the hulking vessels are fishing, as well as reconnaissance by military patrol ships. A total of 340 vessels are currently in the area, the navy said, compared with some 260 reported last month.

a massive chinese fishing fleet is under surveillance near galapagos over ecological concerns
A fishing boat is seen from an aircraft of the Ecuadorian navy after a fishing fleet of mostly Chinese-flagged ships was detected in an international corridor that borders the Galapagos Islands' exclusive economic zone, in the Pacific Ocean, August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Santiago Arcos

Images taken as part of the flyover, which included journalists, showed that at least one of the vessels appeared to be ageing and in need of maintenance.

US News cited information from Ecuador’s Navy Commander, Rear Admiral Darwin Jarrin, said that the navy has approached Colombia and Peru to share information and seek a regional response to the vessels, most of which can hold up to 1,000 tonnes of catch.

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

a massive chinese fishing fleet is under surveillance near galapagos over ecological concerns
Ecuadorian Navy vessels surround a fishing boat after detecting a fishing fleet of mostly Chinese-flagged ships in an international corridor that borders the Galapagos Islands' exclusive economic zone, in the Pacific Ocean, August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Santiago Arcos

Chinese fishing vessels come every year

Chinese fishing vessels come every year to the seas around the Galápagos, which were declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1978, but this year’s fleet is one of the largest seen in recent years, The Guardian said.

Three years ago, a Chinese ship was captured by the Ecuadorean navy within the Galápagos marine reserve of a Chinese vessel.

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

a massive chinese fishing fleet is under surveillance near galapagos over ecological concerns
Galapagos Islands. Photo: fourseasons.com.

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

“This is not something that will change overnight,” said Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Luis Gallegos in a television interview on August 9. “It is necessary to ... generate bilateral agreements with other countries with regards to illegal fishing, to monitor every ship that’s in the South Pacific.”

a massive chinese fishing fleet is under surveillance near galapagos over ecological concerns
The Galapagos Islands are a magical place. Photo: llamatours.co.uk.

A Chinese vessel in 2017 was captured in the Galapagos Marine Reserve carrying 300 tons of marine wildlife.

According to National Post, 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 fleets usually leave the area before that period.

The Galapagos Islands, which lie some 1,000 km (620 miles) from Ecuador’s coast, are home to many unique species, including giant tortoises, and served as inspiration for 19th-century British scientist Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Galapagos is an archipelago in the Pacific, located around 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador. The archipelago, which belongs to Ecuador, consists of 13 large islands and hundreds of small islands and smaller rock formations.

The name Galapagos an old Spanish word meaning tortoise. In other words, the islands are named after the huge tortoises found there. Galapagos is also known as the Enchanted Islands.

Scattered across the equator, the Galapagos Islands are especially famous for their unique wildlife and breathtaking scenery – a visit here is almost like traveling to a whole new, enchanting world.

Galapagos first came under the spotlight in the 19th century when Charles Darwin used the islands as living proof of his Theory of Evolution. The archipelago was officially recognized as a national park in 1959, and in 1978 it joined UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

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