El Universo, “Buques Chinos” Print Coverage

Sharks, manta rays, tuna, squid, turtles and even birds, are species being razed by the Chinese fleet in the vicinity of Ecuador



In order to know the true environmental and economic impact, Ecuador must determine the fishing method of these boats. An investigation into who provides supplies to these vessels is requested.

A Regional Front Would Be an Option

There are fewer and fewer fishery resources in the oceans, leading fleets like China’s to sail further and, in many cases, to commit crimes. They generally seek to exploit loopholes in international waters.

There is currently a geopolitical shortlist of countries that are directly affected, like Ecuador: “The solution is that we lead a regional front of all the countries of the eastern Pacific and go to the negotiating table, were all reforms and updates of international laws of the sea are argued, with a single position,” indicates Tarsicio Granizo, from WWF-Ecuador.

The objective would be for these regulations to include specific chapters on the sustainability of fishing at sea. The ideal is to get a binding international treaty that it is mandatory for all signatory countries.

Granizo indicates that if Ecuador presents itself, without other nations to back it, it will not achieve much. He believes it is a good idea to create a delegation, announced by President Lenín Moreno this week, that will analyze the best alternatives that the country, and especially the Galapagos Islands, has to defend its marine resources and species.

Sharks, turtles, rays and even birds are razed by fleet

In these months, the cold, strong current of Humboldt reaches the archipelago, carrying nutrients which cause a high congregation of species. For this reason, the Chinese fleet is in international waters outside the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Ecuador and the Insular EEZ. [The fleet] knows that species will fall into [their] nets without much effort [via the Humboldt current].

“What the Chinese and other fleets do, including the Ecuadorian tuna fishermen, is that they fish in international waters. Countries around the world have this right,” says Tarsicio Granizo, director of the organization WWF-Ecuador and former Minister of the Environment.

[Granizo] also makes the point, however: “The Chinese take advantage of the fact that there is not much control of fishing in international waters and [subsequently] they would use unsustainable techniques.” He says Ecuador must determine if the fleet is ‘longline’ or if it is catching squid to estimate the environmental impact.

In the two types of fishing mentioned, there is massive collateral damage, especially when using longlines (lines can be several kilometers long with hooks). “With longlines, whatever the hook bites, dies. Hooks can even be within the EEZ. When the Chinese ship was captured in 2017, there were 600 tons of all kinds of species, [including] baby whale sharks,” says Hail.

The captured vessel, which is currently in the service of the Ecuadorian Navy, was a “mother ship,” meaning that it received and stored the cargo of other vessels. This fleet can sail more than a year without entering port.

Nicolas Vera, a member of the Frente Insular collective, assures that his group constantly monitors these vessels: “We want to demonstrate that where they are is part of biological corridors.” Together with his organization, he has been able to determine that each ship in this fleet has a length of approximately 60 meters, and that they could carry one hundred thousand hooks. “We are talking about 26 million hooks. This technique affects manta rays, sharks, turtles and even birds,” says Vera.

On the other hand, if it is a fleet that catches squid, there is incidental fishing. Although the biggest problem lies in the volume of squid they can catch, [bycatch] harms species like the hammerhead shark that feeds on squid.

Furthermore, the country’s food security is at risk. In African states and on the coasts of North Korea, they have devastated the species [and fisheries]

Trash is another problem. They consume between 23,000 and 25,000 plastic bottles a day that they throw into the sea,” says Nicolas Vera.

Another of the doubts that the country must resolve is who supplies fuel and supplies to the Chinese fleet, says Raúl Hidalgo, a ship captain in passive service. He adds that in order to sail so long, [the fleet] must have suppliers in the territories where it fishes: “From Ecuador, someone is supplying it. Although they have motherships, I do not think they will return sailing with the cargo to China. These ships disembark in ports and ship the cargo. Peru is an option.”

He even asks, who is repairing the boats for them?” Vera agrees with this. He says that they have investigated one of the cargo ships of the fleet that has a Chinese name, but it appears with the Panamanian flag. “He has the tracker off for more than 130 days.”

He even asks, who is repairing the boats for them?” Vera agrees with this. He says that they have investigated one of the cargo ships of the fleet that has a Chinese name, but it appears with the Panamanian flag. “He has the tracker off for more than 130 days.”

Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2021


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