Galapagos Islands source of life

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Karyna Prieto

The Galapagos Islands, officially the Colon Archipelago, are a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. It is a province of Ecuador, its isolated terrain is home to a great diversity of animal and plant species, many of which are exclusive. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was inspired by his observation of his species. This province is also the second largest marine reserve on the planet.

42 years have passed since Unesco chose the Galapagos Islands as the first place in the world to launch the list of Natural World Heritage Sites.

Thanks to the interest shown by our readers in the survey carried out on our social platform Instagram, we bring a report of what is happening in the Galápagos Islands, a fascinating source of life. So defined, as it is the environment in which various species reproduce (threatened with extinction).

Chinese ships compromise the stability of the Pacific marine fauna

At the end of July 2020, Ecuador denounced the presence of 260 fishing boats, most of them under the Chinese flag. The Galapagos Islands are just off the coast of Ecuador, 600 miles away. The 200-mile exclusive economic zone protects the coasts of both the South American country and the archipelago. But in the center, there is a space of 200 miles of international waters where the Ecuadorian Navy has detected the presence of these ships.

Chinese ships in international waters off the Galapagos Islands
Activists and environmental organizations

They immediately made themselves heard on social networks with the hashtag #SOSGalapas, asking the Ecuadorian government to do everything possible to remove the newly found fleet. The claims gained more strength when it became known about the whale shark Esperanza, which is part of a satellite tracking program, stopped broadcasting its location.
Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrín, in a press conference, assured that as long as the fleet does not violate the EEZ or the RMG, Ecuador’s armed forces cannot act. The ships would currently be in international waters and the country would have no jurisdiction in them; however, he assured that the national authorities constantly monitor the movement of the fleet via satellite and that they carry out patrols so that the national maritime territory is not raped.

Is it an isolated action?

No, Chinese fishing practices first caught Ecuador’s attention in 2017 when its navy seized the Chinese refrigerated vessel Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 within the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Inside its containers were 6,000 frozen sharks, including the endangered hammerhead shark and the endangered whale shark.
Ecuador fined the ship $ 6 million and jailed 20 Chinese crew members for illegal fishing for up to four years.

However, we must point out that this was possible because what happened was within the marine reserve. On this occasion Ecuador cannot enter any of the ships because they remain outside their surveillance area. Despite the fact that the four authorities recognize that the activity Fishing from these boats threatens biodiversity that moves underwater without artificial boundaries.

“The dynamics of these fleets are not known, we do not know how much fishing they are doing, we are only clear that it is a large number. And they catch fish and squid, which are transported on other vessels that take them to port. Overfishing generates a risk. very high collapse of the populations and resources that inhabit that area. It is a very worrying situation, “explains César Peñaherrera, PhD in quantitative marine sciences and scientific director of MigraMar, an international network of scientists investigating migratory marine species in the eastern Pacific “.

Environmentalists add that another relevant factor is the migration of species. Since they move in the open sea, which would affect not only Ecuador but also neighboring countries.

Ecuador has the challenge of seeking agreements with Colombia, Peru and Costa Rica, which are the countries that have a direct connection with the international waters in which these fleets operate, and to start working so that strict regulations are passed that allow control the use of resources in international waters. Ecuador alone cannot reach it ”, adds the MigraMar expert.

Shark in the deep sea of the Galapagos Islands Sofia Green
There are no laws or regulations

On Thursday 6 August, the Chinese government announced a ban on fishing around the Galapagos Islands. Wang Wenbin, spokesman for the Beijing Ministry of Foreign Affairs, assured that with the ban, in effect between September and November, they seek to contribute to the protection of fisheries resources in the region.

Nevertheless, Chinese Ambassador Chen Guoyou clarified that “there are no laws or regulations, whether regional or international, that prevent fishing in this high seas area”.

On the other hand Milko Schvartzman, specialist in marine conservation and member of the Environmental Policy Circle of Argentina, states that: “The measures announced by China have no impact, since during the months and in the area in which the prohibition, the fleet practically does not register fishing activity “.

The problem does not end there, because there is another possibility.

What happens if the vessels turn off their Automatic Identification System (AIS)?

“The only way to prevent ships from switching off or manipulating their AIS is through control by the flag state, in this case China. In that country’s fishing fleet, the manipulation of AIS, the use of sister ships, it is common, with the same name and / or registration, etc. The Chinese government does not sanction any of these irregularities, “Schvartzman explains.” In April, about 90 ships of the same fleet operating close to the Galapagos, who entered the Argentine sea illegally. Two were captured and detained until fines were paid. Now one of them is on the edge of Ecuador’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) “, he adds, to graphically represent the mobility of these ships.

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