GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador (Reuters) - Ecuador’s navy said on Tuesday that Chinese fishing vessels have gradually left the area near the Galapagos Islands and are now operating in international waters off Peru, following months of fishing that spurred criticism from environmental groups.
More than 300 vessels arrived in June to the area around the Galapagos, one of most biodiverse in the world, to fish for giant squid in international waters.
“We have done the monitoring and we know that they are in offshore waters off the Exclusive Economic Zone of Peru, in its southern part,” Ecuadorean Commander of Naval Operations Rear Admiral Daniel Ginez, said in an interview. “We know they are there, we have them monitored.”
Since 2017, Chinese vessels have been spending the summer months on the outskirts of the protected area of Galapagos, home to marine species including some that are endangered.
This year’s fleet was larger than those registered in previous years, Ginez said.
“With such a large number of fishing boats we have the risk that certain species are diminished,” explained Ginez.
“We need to identify measures that allow us to avoid the presence of such a large number of fishing vessels, which without a doubt can be classified as vessels that are preying on fishing resources.”
Environmentalists say this type of fishing takes advantage of species that cross into the high seas from the protected waters around the islands, which served as the basis for 19th century British scientist Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
No vessels of the fishing fleet entered Ecuadorean waters while operating near the Galapagos, Ginez said, adding that fuel was supplied by vessels belonging to the same fleet.
The fleet’s presence led Ecuador to ask regional organizations for greater control over fishing in international waters. Ecuadorean officials have said some vessels turned off satellite communication systems, in violation of applicable fishing protocols.
China has promised a “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal fishing and has proposed a moratorium in the area near the Galapagos between September and November.
Writing by Alexandra Valencia and Brian Ellsworth; Editing by David Gregorio
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