President Lenin Moreno met with Chinese Ambassador Chen Guoyou Monday to lodge an official complaint about a large Chinese fishing fleet moored just miles from the Galapagos Islands protected waters.
Moreno had summoned Chen Guoyou last week after the Ecuadorian navy confirmed the presence of a 245-ship Chinese fleet including fishing, cargo, refrigeration, and processing vessels near the Galapagos.
Moreno said he considers the Chinese fishing practices predatory and has ordered the armed forces to safeguard Ecuadorian sovereignty in the region. He also ordered the police to impose restrictions on those who provide fuel to the fleet.
According to newspaper reports, at least Ecuadorian tanker ships have been providing fuel to the Chinese fleet.
“Although the fleet it outside the protected waters, its position only a few thousand meters away is a threat to the delicate ecosystem of the Galapagos,” Moreno said in a statement. He added that the country may be forced to extend the 7,970 square kilometers protection area.
In 2017, a large fishing fleet was detected near the Galapagos marine reserve with 297 vessels, one of which, “Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999”, entered Ecuadorian waters and was stopped with 300 tons of prohibited fishing. The ship was captured and held in port for three months before a settlement was reached between Ecuador and China.
The Galapagos Islands, located 1,000 kilometers west of the coast of Ecuador, were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.