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Galapagos

Galapagos endangered marine life under threat from Chinese fishing fleet

Galapagos penguin - one of the world's most endangered penguins - feeding underwater on small baitfish in the Galapagos Island Archipelago, Ecuador.
Galapagos penguin - one of the world's most endangered penguins - feeding underwater on small baitfish in the Galapagos Island Archipelago, Ecuador. © Specialist Stock / Barcroft Medi / Getty Image
2 min

Environmentalists and the Ecuadorian government have expressed alarm over a huge Chinese fishing fleet of around 260 vessels positioned just on the edge of the Galapagos Islands waters. There are fears the fishers could cause damage to the unique marine ecosystem of the World Heritage site.

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Ecuador said it is monitoring a large fleet of around 260 fishing vessels, many of them Chinese, some 200 miles off the Galapagos Islands and has increased patrolling to ensure the ships do not enter its territorial waters.

The discovery has sparked fears for the protected region’s diverse ecosystem and delicate marine life which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

The eastern Pacific Ocean islands and nearby seas are listed as a Unesco World Heritage site for their unique biodiversity. The Galapagos marine reserve has one of the world's greatest concentrations of shark species, including endangered whale and hammerhead varieties.

The fishing fleet was spotted via satellite imaging on the borders of the Galapagos Protection Zone. The ships are currently in international waters just outside a 188-mile wide exclusive economic zone around the island.

"There is a corridor that is international waters, that's where the fleet is located," said Defence Minister Oswaldo Jarrin.

He added that none had attempted to enter the exclusive economic zone.

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The fishing fleet is positioned in an area which serves as a major migration route for sea creatures, including many endangered species.

Environmental organisations have voiced concern that overfishing will cause the ocean’s ecosystem to collapse and harm protected marine wildlife. “We are watching the destruction of the ocean in real time,” said the Blue Planet Society, which campaigns for ocean preservation, on Twitter.

Chinese fishing vessels appear each year near the Galapagos, attracted by marine species such as the hammerhead shark, which is in danger of extinction.

A Chinese vessel in 2017 was captured in the Galapagos Marine Reserve carrying 300 tons of illegally caught marine wildlife, including sharks. Shark fin is still considered a prized delicacy in some Chinese restaurants.

"We are on alert, (conducting) surveillance, patrolling to avoid an incident such as what happened in 2017," said Jarrin.

(with agencies)

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