Growing presence of Chinese squid-jiggers near Galápagos causes uproar in Ecuador

China’s squid-fishing fleet is hoovering up food stocks essential to the survival of rare species on Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands, according to research by Oceana, an NGO which has been tracking over 300 Chinese vessels in the waters.

A statement from the U.S.-based nonprofit notes that squid are “essential to the diet of iconic Galápagos species such as fur seals and hammerhead sharks, as well as for many commercial and recreational fish species, including tuna and billfish, that contribute to the local economy.” The statement is similar to those released by Ecuadorian environmental protection and artisanal fishery groups in recent weeks.

Global Fishing Watch data collected by Oceana from 13 July to 13 August, 2020, showed the Chinese flagged fleet represented 99 percent of the fishing activity off the Galapagos Islands (nearly 900 kilometers off the Ecuadorian coast) in the period, logging more than 73,000 total hours of apparent fishing. This backs previous data released by Ecuador’s government, which has vocally opposed the presence of the massing of Chinese ships near its exclusive economic zone.

Meanwhile, more Chinese squid-jigging vessels are headed to the area: Ten 65-meter-long squid-jigging vessels owned by the Pingtan Marine Co. set sail from a shipyard in Weihai this week after being licensed by the Agriculture Ministry to operate in the Southwest Atlantic Ocean, as well as the Indian Ocean, the North Pacific, and the Southeast Pacific Ocean.

“Squid is one of our key products,” Pingtan Marine CEO Xinrong Zhuo said in a statement to investors. “We believe that the fishing operations of these vessels will further enhance our catching capacity and increase the company's supply of seafood to the market. The company is continuing to make adjustments to its sales strategy in an effort to achieve our goal of growth in both catching volume and selling price, and we believe these new vessels will assist the company in reaching these goals.”

SeafoodSource has asked Pingtan for additional comment regarding its presence in the area of the Galápagos.

Oceana said it has documented Chinese vessels apparently disabling their tracking devices, which is not allowed under international laws and under the Chinese licensing system for distant-water vessels, while also “engaging in potentially suspect transshipment practices.”

The Galápagos Marine Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, covers more than 133,000 square kilometers surrounding the Galápagos Islands.

Chinese Ambassador to Ecuador Cheng Guoyou confirmed to a parliamentary committee in Quito this summer that 350 Chinese vessels were in the waters near the Galápagos, but were observing the rules set down by regional fishing governance bodies like Organizaciones Regionales de Ordenacion Pesquera (OROP).

“China is a responsible fishing country,” Guo said.

However, Marla Valentine, Oceana’s illegal fishing and transparency analyst, said her organization’s findings heighten skepticism around the Chinese fleet’s adherence to fishing rules.

“The situation playing out in the Galapagos should raise serious questions and concerns about the impact China’s massive fishing fleet is having on the oceans it sails,” Valentine said.

Photo courtesy of Pingtan Marine


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