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U.S. offers support as Ecuador increases patrols of Chinese fishing fleet near the Galapagos

The U.S. National Security Council said Wednesday that it stands ready to help Ecuador defend Galapagos protected waters from a Chinese fishing fleet anchored nearby. “We offer our support to Ecuador through our Southern Military Command in the face of any aggression that infringes on its economic and environmental sovereignty,” the NSC said in a statement.

Chinese fishing ship seized by the Ecuadorian navy in 2017.

Although it remains in international waters, Ecuador Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrin said the 260-vessel Chinese fleet is working less than 10 kilometers from the Galápagos Marine Reserve, in an area between the islands and the Ecuador mainland. “We are stepping up naval and air patrols and have notified the Chinese fishing companies that we will seize any vessel that enters the protected space,” he said.

He did not comment on the offer from the U.S. to provide assistance.

Also on Wednesday the executive committee of the Commission of the South Pacific issued a statement condemning “illegal and unregulated fishing in international waters.” The commission, made up of representatives from Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Peru, said it would work to establish a protected corridor connecting Ecuador with the Galapagos.