Authorities Monitoring Hundreds of Vessels Fishing Close to Galápagos Waters
At least 260 fishing vessels are operating close to the borders of the Galápagos Marine Reserve, according to a report from the Ecuadorean Navy.
The fleet, thought to be made up of mostly Chinese vessels, is being monitored by authorities in case it should violate the boundaries of the Galápagos Marine Reserve or Ecuador's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The huge fleet descends on the area each year. It is operating legally in international waters, but is suspected of taking advantage of seasonal migrations to target vast numbers of sharks for the Asian shark-fin markets. The fleet consists of smaller vessels which service larger 'motherships', each capable of transporting hundreds of tonnes of fish.
'We are on alert, conducting surveillance to avoid an incident such as what happened in 2017,' said Ecuador's Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrín. 'There is a corridor that is international waters and that’s where the fleet is located,' he said, adding, 'to this point, the ships have remained in international waters and have made no attempts to enter the restricted Galápagos Islands Marine Reserve ecological zone.'
In 2017, the Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999, a 100m-long cargo ship, was seized by Ecuadorean authorities after being discovered in protected waters. The ship was found to have six of its holds filled with more than 300 tonnes of dead sharks, including species that are threatened with extinction, such as hammerheads. The captain and crew were imprisoned and fined $5.9 million.