Ecuador is monitoring a large fleet of fishing vessels, most of them Chinese, off the Galapagos Islands protected waters area and has increased patrolling to ensure the ships do not enter the area of the ecologically sensitive islands, Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrín said on Thursday.
Chinese fishing vessels appear each year near the Galapagos, attracted by marine species such as the hammerhead shark, which is in danger of extinction.
“We are on alert, conducting surveillance to avoid an incident such as what happened in 2017,” Jarrin told reporters. “To this point, the ships have remained in international waters and have made no attempts to enter the restricted Galapagos Islands Marine Reserve ecological zone.”
In 2017, a Chinese vessel was captured in the Galapagos zone carrying 300 tons of marine wildlife, much of it protected species. The 3,000-ton ship has since been converted for use by the Ecuadorian Navy.
Jarrin added that more than a dozen Navy patrol ships; aircraft and drones are monitoring the area and will seize any vessel that enters the protected area. “We have put the world’s fishing industry on notice that the Galapagos zone is off limits and we expect our rights to be respected
The Ecuadorian Navy has identified some 260 vessels in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands’ exclusive ecological and economic zone.
“There is a corridor that is international waters and that’s where the fleet is located,” said Jarrin, adding none had attempted to enter the exclusive economic zone. “The Navy has followed the movement of the fishing fleet since it began mobilizing off the Peruvian coast last month. We have contacted the Chinese government, reminding of the special protections of the Galapagos zone under the United Nations Convention of the Sea (Convenmar),” he said.
The Galapagos Islands, which served as inspiration for 19th century British scientist Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, are home to a wide variety marine wildlife as well as turtles, flamingos and albatrosses.