Aug 7, 2021 - World

Ecuador faces fishing crisis near Galápagos

A fleet of ships on the ocean

Most of the 300 vessels that have arrived near the Galápagos area every summer for the past three years are from China. Photo: Yao Feng/VCG via Getty Images

A fishing fleet of around 300 boats is fast approaching the World Heritage Site off the Ecuadorian coast where biodiversity inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Why it matters: Over 20% of the marine species in the Galápagos archipelago’s reserve are found only there.

  • The illegal and unregulated vessels mostly fish squid, which many animals unique to the Galápagos depend on for food, as well as commercial species like tuna.
  • But local NGOs warn that many other species end up caught in the fishing nets.
  • Chinese ships have been detained carrying endangered shark fins in past years.

Details: Most of the detected fishing occurs just outside the protected reserve off the islands, in international waters.

  • Many of the Galápagos’ marine animals are migratory, like sea turtles or the hammerhead shark, so activists say the fishers wait for them to leave the protected area to trap them.
  • The Ecuadorian navy monitors the waters with U.S. assistance, but many of the vessels evade detection by turning off their satellite tracking systems.

The big picture: Chinese, Korean and sometimes Spanish vessels have also been caught and tried in recent years for fishing illegally off the nearby coasts of Peru, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.

Yes, but: The unregulated fishing does not come only from foreign vessels. Studies indicate 20% of shark fin exports originate from Peruvian and Ecuadorian ships.

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