The Ecuadorian Navy is committed to interoperability, maritime security, and the fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. This is made possible thanks to multiple operations and training such as Multinational Maritime Authority Exercise GALAPEX II, held September 17-October 1, 2023, in the Galápagos Islands.
Ecuadorian Navy Admiral Oscar Rene Noboa Estrella, commander of Naval Operations, spoke with Diálogo about the importance of GALAPEX II.
Diálogo: The Ecuadorian Navy proposed to conduct GALAPEX at the 28th Inter-American Naval Conference (IANC), in Cartagena, Colombia, in July 2018. How was this idea born?
Ecuadorian Navy Admiral Oscar Rene Noboa Estrella, commander of Naval Operations: Indeed there was this proposal for the execution of a combined exercise called GALAPEX in the IANC. This initiative was born in our Naval War Academy, where its staff officers and students saw the need to form a multinational task force to combat illicit acts in the Eastern Pacific near the South American coast. This proposal was very well received by the Naval Command and we immediately made preparations to start planning and subsequent execution, so much so that a first virtual exercise has already been carried out. This is the second exercise, which is being carried out in person, with the participation of partner countries’ navies.
Diálogo: What is the objective of GALAPEX II?
Adm. Noboa: The main objective of multinational exercise GALAPEX II is to carry out exercises to strengthen interoperability among multinational forces, including issues related to training, maritime security doctrine, logistics, communications, and other matters of interest that will make it possible to neutralize activities related to IUU fishing.
Diálogo: Why is it important for the Ecuadorian Navy to carry out GALAPEX II?
Adm. Noboa: The Ecuadorian Navy is committed to improving relations of friendship and mutual cooperation among participating navies and international organizations, as well as to promoting the creation of coalitions and multilateral cooperation in relation to maritime security.
Diálogo: Which countries are taking part in GALAPEX II, and what is the importance of this exercise for the region’s navies?
Adm. Noboa: The countries participating with representatives and delegates from partner organizations are: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the European Union, France, Italy, Mexico, Panama, Peru, the United Kingdom, and the United States,. Delegates from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador, the Permanent Commission of the South Pacific, and the Undersecretariat of Fisheries Resources are also participating.
This multinational exercise is of great importance and carries great relevance for all the participating countries, because we see the need to have safe and sustainable seas and oceans for future generations. We have the obligation to safeguard the living and non-living resources that exist in them, for the development of humanity.
Diálogo: How does GALAPEX II increase interoperability levels between the Ecuadorian Navy and other participating institutions?
Adm. Noboa: One of the objectives of multinational exercise GALAPEX II is precisely to improve and increase interoperability levels among participating navies and partner organizations. We’re going to do this through Command and Control, the doctrine that emerges from these actions, and the tactics, techniques, and procedures that can be improved.
Diálogo: The Ecuadorian government has determined that IUU fishing is a high risk for the country. How does GALAPEX II support this national effort to combat IUU fishing?
Adm. Noboa: IUU fishing is the sixth most lucrative criminal economy globally, with revenues estimated at $15 to $36 billion, according to various reports by international organizations for the protection of marine species. The foreign-flagged fishing fleet existing in South American maritime spaces, which is the main player for this problem, is a concern that has existed since 2016, and since then, has triggered serious annual alerts in our country, Argentina, Chile, and Peru. The presence of fishing fleets possibly carrying out IUU fishing threatens migratory marine species, many of them even unique in the world, having the Galápagos Islands as their sanctuary.
GALAPEX, through its presence and control in the maritime areas where this foreign fishing fleet is likely to be found, will support the regional and global effort against this illegal activity that does so much damage to the migratory ecosystems of the world’s seas and oceans.
Diálogo: The Galápagos Islands are an area of great importance in terms of conservation and marine biodiversity, and their rich and ecologically diverse waters have attracted local fishermen for centuries. However, they are now facing a much more rapacious fisherman: China. How can GALAPEX help to tackle the Chinese fishing fleet that preys on the seas?
Adm. Noboa: The natural beauty of the Galápagos Islands, the diversity and uniqueness of species that its volcanic origin harbors, its geological dynamics with permanent changes and variety of formations, are considered a living laboratory of evolutionary processes still in progress; added to this, the Galápagos Islands gave place to the development of a large number of species, both animal and plant, that do not exist anywhere else in the world.
We are aware of the risk involved in the operations carried out by the international fishing fleet, its logistics capacity to remain in places where the action of the States is limited, which generate this breeding ground that depredates the seas and oceans, which is why GALAPEX II, through international cooperation and aid, is trying to stop this excessive depredation. Our presence in these sectors will be improved every day and the action of the countries themselves in the control and management of these resources will also increase.
Diálogo: What is the added value of participating in GALAPEX II?
Adm. Noboa: Traditionally we thought that the seas and oceans were an inexhaustible source of resources, but they are not. We have seen how the uncontrollable depredation of international fishing fleets has shaken the ecosystems of migratory species, which is why GALAPEX II aims to be a response from navies and partner organizations and from humanity in the control and strengthening of the extraction of these resources, to make these seas and oceans sustainable for future generations.