China Continues to Plunder South American Pacific Ocean

China Continues to Plunder South American Pacific Ocean

By Yolima Dussán/Diálogo
January 13, 2021

In November, the Peruvian government passed a decree ordering all foreign-flagged vessels operating in Peruvian waters to use an additional satellite device starting January 1, 2021. This will enable authorities to know the routes and movements of each vessel with greater precision.

On October 18, Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Luis Gallego told EFE news agency that a mostly Chinese-flagged fishing fleet had moved from the boundaries of Ecuador’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) toward northern Peru.

Days earlier, on October 6, the environmental website Mongabay Latam published an investigative report about Chinese fishing boats in the Galápagos Islands. “They sweep the sea and evade regulations,” said the document, which tracked the names and companies of 139 Chinese-flagged ships that were identified in the area. “All of them are registered with the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation; however, they do not always have scientific observers on board, they are not duly controlled upon arrival, they turn off their satellite systems, and some have a history of illegal fishing. It is very difficult to distinguish what happens among that large fleet of 300 vessels, each more than 55 meters long; not even their exact number is known.”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) report The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020, China leads the ranking of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

Mongabay investigators gathered the statements of scientists who work in the Galápagos Islands. The scientists concluded that the Chinese fishing boats had arrived in the area after finding garbage in the sea: plastic bottles, shoes, buckets, and even fishing nets. “The bottles are unmistakable due to the Asian characters, and we know that they come from the south; they don’t come from Asia,” biologist Sofía Green said from the Charles Darwin Research Station.

On October 1, the nongovernmental organization Oceana, devoted to protecting the world’s oceans, reported on its website that the fishing fleet is advancing on a journey it described as predatory, going from the Ecuadorean EEZ, between the continent and the Galápagos Islands, to the Peruvian EEZ, in transit toward Chilean and Argentine waters, where they will remain until late December.

“It’s important that Latin American countries form an alliance to fight illegal fishing, and part of that is to prevent collaboration with this fleet,” Milko Schvartzman, a marine conservation specialist at the Argentine organization Environmental Policies Circle (Círculo de Políticas Ambientales) who has studied this fleet for years, told Mongabay on August 10. In his view, the port, transshipment, and fuel supply services that the Chinese fishing fleet uses in every country are part of the problem.

“It’s important that Latin American countries form an alliance to fight illegal fishing, and part of that is to prevent collaboration with this fleet,” Milko Schvartzman, a marine conservation specialist at the Argentine organization Environmental Policies Circle (Círculo de Políticas Ambientales)

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