Chinese fishing fleet off Peru sparks Washington-Beijing Twitter war
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Around 250 Chinese fishing vessels were seen sailing just outside Peru’s waters last week, sparking a Twitter war between Washington and Beijing.
The fleet, previously fishing for giant squid near the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador, was detected by Peruvian naval forces some 230 miles (370.15 km) off the coast of the country, the local maritime authority reported.
“Our Navy is making overflights ensuring there are no such vessels within the scope of our jurisdiction, which is 200 miles,” Defense Minister Jorge Chávez told reporters on September 25.
The commander of the Coast Guard operations, Rear Admiral Jorge Portocarrero, told Reuters the fleet was identified and located after a low-altitude flight of an exploration aircraft and a patrol vessel between September 20-23.
“Not all are in a single place, they are scattered,” he said, adding there were 250-270 ships. “We have no evidence of them having entered our maritime space.”
The US embassy in Lima said the Chinese vessels had a history of avoiding tracking and seemed to “be dumping plastic” pollutants.
“Over fishing can cause enormous ecological and economic damage. Peru cannot afford such a loss,” the US embassy said on Twitter this week.
China’s embassy retorted with its own tweet, insisting that its deep-water fishing fleet respected international law and “strictly obeyed Peruvian laws and limited itself to operating in the high seas,” according to The Guardian.
“We hope the Peruvian public won’t be fooled by false information,” it said.
Stuck in middle of geopolitical row
|A fish seller in Lima in August. Photo: AP
Peru’s Foreign Ministry sought to defuse the tension, saying it had expressed discomfort to US officials about the “inaccuracy” of the US embassy’s tweets, Reuters said. Peru is the world’s second largest producer of copper, much of which is bought by China.
Vice Minister Talavera said he had told US officials that Peru “is a friend and partner” of both the US and China and called on them to resolve their differences through dialogue, understanding and cooperation.
Local fishing associations said indiscriminate fishing of giant squid hurt the domestic industry. Squid accounts for 43 percent of Peru’s fishery exports.
“It’s an open secret that every year vessels mainly from China... are installed just at the edge of 200 miles off Peru to extract this resource,” Cayetana Aljovín, president of the National Society on Fishing, said on September 25.
“By extracting an unregulated resource in those waters, it could negatively impact the Peruvian ecosystem.”
|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. Photo: Reuters
Peru’s government approved a law in August requiring local and foreign boats operating off its coast to use GPS and SISESAT equipment, a satellite tracking system for vessels.
Portoccarero stated the fleet of Chinese ships has been present in the Pacific Ocean for years, ranging from the north of Chile, Peru’s coast and close to the Galapagos Islands, depending on the migration patterns of the squid.
He added that in 2004, three Chinese-flagged ships were captured within Peruvian maritime territory, after an operation with a navy submarine and helicopter, though added this sort of fleet was found in places around the world.
“We have a large one in front of Argentina, another in the north of Brazil, there are several surrounding Australia, New Zealand, East Africa, and in the Indian Ocean. It is a global issue,” he said./.
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