In June of this year, about 300 Chinese fishing boats arrived near the Galapagos Islands, one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world, to fish for giant squid in international waters.
Ecuador’s naval operations commander, Daniel Ginez, said this week that the size of the Chinese fleet is larger than in previous years. He said these fishing boats can be classified as vessels that are preying on fishing resources. “With such a large number of fishing boats we have the risk that certain species will be diminished,” Ginez explained.
At present, the Chinese fishing fleet is heading south to the waters near Peru.
With large fishing fleets, both Peru and Ecuador are highly dependent on seafood for their livelihoods and foreign exchange. World Bank data shows that in 2018, the two countries caught 4.5 million tons of fish, but that was only 25 percent of China’s ocean catches.
According to the statistics of Oceana, an organization that tracks fishing activities, the fishing time of Chinese fishing vessels between July 13 and August 13 totaled more than 73,000 hours, accounting for 99 percent of the fishing activities around the reserve.
The excessive fishing that Chinese ocean vessels conduct in international waters has spurred accusations from coastal countries and opposition from the international community. U.S. President Trump specifically mentioned in his speech at the United Nations on Tuesday September 22 that “China dumps millions and millions of tons of plastic and trash into the oceans, and fishes excessively in other countries’ waters.”
Soon afterwards, the US Embassy in Peru sent a tweet accusing the Chinese fleet of changing the name of the vessel and turning off GPS tracking, so as to restrict surveillance of its activities. The tweet said, “Overfishing can cause huge ecological and economic damage. Peru cannot afford such a loss.”
Last month, the U.S. Coast Guard coordinated with the Ecuadorian Navy to send ships to the area to patrol more than 3,000 miles in international and Ecuadorian waters to monitor this huge Chinese fishing fleet. Ecuador is also reportedly cooperating with neighboring countries such as Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia to establish a corridor of marine reserves to restrict commercial fishing.
China’s global fishing fleet is enormous. Estimates suggest it has 17,000 vessels, far exceeding other countries in the world. It is almost impossible to be thorough in monitoring these vessels. Now that it has nearly depleted the waters near China, China’s ocean fleet has been sailing further and further around the globe. Many underdeveloped countries that rely on fishery resources lack the ability to protect their maritime sovereignty.
Source: Voice of America, September 24, 2020