QUITO, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Ecuador said on Wednesday that China has agreed to allow supervision of its fishing vessels near the Galapagos Islands, after their presence spurred concerns about possible environmental impacts on the ecologically sensitive region.
The Andean nation last month said it was monitoring some 260 vessels, many of which are Chinese, in an area of international waters between mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos.
The 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.
“China accepts Ecuador’s supervision of Chinese fishing vessels that are at sea,” Foreign Minister Luis Gallegos told a legislative commission, adding that China had agreed to hold bilateral talks about the issue.
Gallegos said Chinese authorities have vowed a policy of “zero tolerance” toward vessels linked to illegal fishing and the companies that own those vessels.
He did not provide details on what the supervision would involve.
China’s embassy in Quito did not answer calls seeking comment.
Ecuador’s navy would likely struggle to carry out any significant supervision of the fishing vessels, given that they are spread out over a sprawling area of the Pacific.
Ecuador cannot prevent fishing in the international waters at the edge of Galapagos Exclusive Economic Zone, which contain abundant marine species that spill over from the Galapagos.
Gallegos said the Chinese had offered a fishing moratorium in the area between September and November. That coincides with the period when the vessels in previous years have already left.
In 2017, a Chinese vessel was captured in the Galapagos Marine Reserve with 300 tons of marine wildlife. (Reporting by Alexandra Valencia, writing by Brian Ellsworth, editing by Richard Pullin)
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