Fishing fleet stalks Galapagos – what has the Government done?

05 July 2021, 11:15
Gisella Rojas

(Art: Jhosue Vite)

The new approach of an international fishing fleet is targeting the limits of the exclusive areas of Galapagos. On June 29, the presence of a fishing boat to the south of the islands was reported.

Given this news, the Government assured that Ecuador has the necessary technology for monitoring. In fact, according to the official statement, as of one month ago, the country can track ships with a tool even when they turn off their navigation equipment through an agreement with Canada. But is it enough?

On July 5, the Ecuadorian coordinator of organizations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment (Cedenma) filed an administrative claim with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility. Gustavo Redín, president of Cedenma, says that the reason [for the filing] is due to the fact that “on the part of the State there has been a lack of political will to execute international agreements to effectively control illegal fishing,” he points out.

Likewise, he states that there are financial problems to carry out the controls, “under this constraint, the State should open the possibility for other international organizations that are interested in the protection of the seas (…) it would be a support and would not imply giving up sovereignty as was claimed as an explanation last year,” he emphasizes.

What has the government done?

On June 29, Segcom reported that since the [new] government took office, an inter-ministerial committee was activated to “periodically assess” the island’s situation vis-à-vis foreign fleets.

On July 2, Ecuadorian authorities and China held a virtual meeting, where Ecuador proposed to establish a mechanism for the exchange of scientific information between experts from both countries for the implementation of moratoriums and other measures to protect marine resources.

For his part, the Minister of the Environment, Gustavo Manrique, pointed out that there are “three oceanic control vessels, seven for fast navigation, a light aircraft and a control room that allow the behavior of the vessels to be monitored in time and online.” Ecuavisa.com asked the Foreign Ministry to know the budget allocated to carry out the controls, but as of the publication of this report there has been no response.

Again

In the past, ships have already stalked the islands. In 2017, the Chinese vessel Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 was captured within the Galapagos Marine Reserve, which had 6,223 sharks in its hold, including the following species: hammerhead, silky, bigeye thresher, pelagic thresher and mako.

On July 16, 2020, the Ecuadorian Navy detected the presence of another international fishing fleet. Faced with this, the previous government created a Commission to design a ‘Galapagos protection strategy’. The former mayor of Quito, Roque Sevilla, led the team, but what was achieved?

At the international level, he says, “the Foreign Minister of that time (Luis Gallegos) contacted neighboring countries Chile, Peru, Colombia and Panama to take a single position against China,” he told Ecuavisa.com. For its part, the Chinese Government offered greater control “but as we see it was pure blah, blah, because they are here again.” In addition, he stresses that they managed to get the United States to support Ecuador in the presence of the fleet.

Regarding internal management, he states that the Government is currently proposing to expand a new marine zone that connects Galapagos with Cocos Island in Costa Rica “because the route is called the migravía, thousands of large fish migrate there.” They will request that 100,000 square kilometers be protected.

Gray Areas: What is the limit?

Crespo of Cedenma emphasizes that, in the international regulations of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Convemar), surveillance is also established on the high seas. He adds that although government entities have stated that “if the fleet enters the area exclusively, they will act,” he emphasizes that “even by not entering, they may be setting up crimes that the State has the obligation to prosecute.”

Solution: Extend the Exclusive Economic Zone?

It is not an option. “It is not what we propose, we seek effective control; if there is an international fleet, the Ecuadorian State can demand that the Chinese State open the warehouses in the port to see if there is illegal fishing,” and explains that this would require a reform to the Convemar, which is a long process when you take into account that it is made up of 160 states and that it took 20 years to sign.

Read the original coverage from Ecuavisa at https://www.ecuavisa.com/amp/lo-nuevo-ecuavisa/flota-pesquera-acecha-galapagos-que-ha-hecho-el-gobierno-KJ487369?__twitter_impression=true&s=09


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

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