Chinese fishing armada plundered waters around Galápagos, data shows
A vast fishing armada of Chinese vessels just off the Galápagos Islands logged an astounding 73,000 hours of fishing during just one month as it pulled up thousands of tonnes of squid and fish, a new report based on data analysis has found.
The discovery of the giant flotilla off the archipelago that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution stirred controversy and outrage in Ecuador and abroad.
Nearly 300 Chinese vessels accounted for 99% of visible fishing just outside the archipelago’s waters between 13 July and 13 August this year, according to analysis by marine conservation group Oceana.
The fleet was fishing primarily for squid – essential to the diet of the unique Galápagos fur seals and endangered scalloped hammerhead sharks – as well as for commercial fish species such as tuna and billfish that contribute to the local economy, the report said.
“For a month, the world watched and wondered what China’s enormous fishing fleet was doing off the Galápagos Islands, but now we know,” said Marla Valentine, an illegal fishing and transparency analyst for Oceana.
Using a mapping tool devised by NGO Global Fishing Watch in partnership with Google and the environmental watchdog SkyTruth, Oceana documented Chinese vessels apparently disabling their public tracking devices, thus providing conflicting vessel identification information. The new evidence supports claims made by the Ecuadorean government last month. The report also found some vessels engaging in potentially suspect transshipment practices, all of which can facilitate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
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