China Panama Fleet Fishing Dangerously Close to Galapagos
The fleet has been confirmed to be fishing since March on international waters, just two nautical miles southwest of the water sanctuary.
A Chinese and Panamanian-flagged fishing fleet, made up of 245 vessels, has been identified by the Ecuadorean Navy for the third consecutive year, fishing just outside of protected waters of the Galapagos Islands.
"It is a predatory fleet of the seas. We have assembled task forces composed of warships, auxiliary ships, submarines, coastguard boats, aircraft and all components of the Marine Corps," Ecuadorean Navy Commander Darwin Jarrin told reporters Wednesday during a press conference.
The fleet has been confirmed to be fishing since March on international waters, just two nautical miles (about 3.7 km) southwest of the protected water sanctuary. During the months of March, April and May, marine life travel through this area to feed near the islands.
The Ecuadorean officials have warned that because of this vessels have engaged in "illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing" occupying an area larger than the Galapagos itself. The Navy also reported that an Ecuadorean ship, Maria del Carmen IV, has been supplying fuel to the vessels.
"This has been a surprise indeed because it is an Ecuadorean-flagged vessel,” Jarrin said, adding that nothing can be done about this type of action because the ship is abided by law while doing it on international waters.
Their mission now is to "guarantee the maritime sovereignty of Ecuador" and preserve the sensitive marine wildlife of an area such as the Galapagos Islands.
Back in 2017, the Chinese-flagged ship Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999, part of a similar fleet, was apprehended with around 300 tons of near-extinct or endangered species, including hammerhead sharks. In 2018, the fishing fleet increased to approximately 300 vessels, which usually come at this time of year due to the affluence of wildlife.
A mixture of warm and cold ocean currents plus the islands' isolated location, 997 km west of Ecuador's Pacific coast, make it ideal for about 3,000 species of fish and 34 different species of shark. In 2016, the country created a new 38,850-square kilometer (15,000-square mile ) marine sanctuary to protect the world's greatest concentration of sharks, which was added to several other smaller reserves and a 207,200-square kilometer (80,000-square mile) marine reserve created in 1998.