Four South American countries have joined forces in a bid to combat illegal fishing by huge Chinese fleets off their coasts.
Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have threatened measures “to prevent, discourage and jointly confront” illegal fishing near their exclusive economic zones in the Pacific.
The joint statement made no specific mention of China but environmental groups Greenpeace and Oceana have repeatedly warned of the growing presence of Chinese fishing fleets in the area.
The South American quartet said they would boost “cooperation and real-time exchange of information” to highlight the illegal fishing.
Ecuador in July complained to China over a 300-trawler fleet off Galapagos, saying around half of them had turned off their tracking systems so they could not be located.
Beijing in early August banned its vessels from fishing near the Galapagos from September to November this year, a move considered meaningless by environmentalist since that is the period when the fleet was already scheduled to leave the area.
The Chinese fleet instead headed south through international waters to fish near the exclusive economic zones of Peru and Chile, according to NGO Oceana.
Oceana has accused the Chinese of “pillaging” the waters off the Galapagos, primarily for squid, thereby depriving some species in the waters of the protected archipelago – including fur seals and hammerhead sharks – of their essential diet.
One strategy being considered by the Ecuadorian government is to extend its claim to the entire area linking the Galapagos to the mainland. Currently, much of the area is open for international transit or fishing. The United Nations has signaled that it would support such a claim by Ecuador.
Credit: The Guardian