The government acknowledged Tuesday that Chinese-flagged fishing vessels have arrived in the Pacific Ocean waters near the Galapagos Islands preserve. A spokeswoman said that about 30 ships are already in the area and that more are en route.
According to the environmental group Más Galapagos, the Chinese fish processing ship, Shun Xing 18, has anchored just south of Galapagos waters. The group criticized the government for not moving more aggressively to expand the Galapagos protected waters preserve and for not taking diplomatic action to dissuade the Chinese government from fishing in the area. The group says the Chinese engage in illegal activities, including killing sharks for only their fins, but Ecuador has failed to file a protest.
“This is a repeat of 2020 and nothing has changed since last year. We demand that the government follow through with the promises it made to stop factory fishing near the Galapagos,” Más Galapagos said in a statement. “President Lenin Moreno said he would work to expand the fishing reserve but he did nothing in this regard. He also said he would protest to the Chinese fisheries ministry but he did not do this either.”
Last year, more than 300 fishing ships, almost all of them Chinese, spent more than two months in the area.
Ecuador Environmental Minister Gustavo Manrique said that the government, with the assistance of the navy, would closely monitor the actions of the fishing fleet. “I have activated a committee of the Foreign Ministry, the Ministries of Defense, Production, Environment and the communication to keep a close watch on the activity and to make sure there is no encroachment into the Galapagos preserve,” he said. He added that any vessels that enters the preserve will be seized.
Más Galapagos claims that Moreno failed to act on expanding the Galapagos preserve due to pressure from the Ecuadorian tuna fishing industry and fear of upsetting the Chinese government, which has provided billions of dollars of loans to Ecuador. “He buckled under the pressure and put financial considerations ahead of the interests of the people,” the group said.
Más Galapagos said that the United Nations and the governments of Colombia, Peru and Panama have all agreed to support expansion of the preserve. “All we need is the support of our own government,” it said.