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  • Harriet

Chinese DWF Fleet in the Galapagos: what action is being taken?

Updated: Oct 15, 2020

As of publishing, it’s day 43 of the Chinese distant water fishing (DWF) fleet plundering the Galapagos of its marine life. They arrived on 6th July and announced in a meeting with Ecuador held on 5th August, that they will not be leaving until 1st September, and then, only for three months. Many are asking how they can be removed earlier than this, and what can be done to protect these waters, both now and in the future. We intend to answer those questions below. Some are also asking, why China's voluntary removal isn't until September, but that is one question that is easily answered. In previous years, China had already left the Galapagos waters by then due to natural dips in the populations of target species such as squid, tuna and sharks. The fleet moves to the South Atlantic to deplete the seas there instead and as such, would never have been there anyway. The statement is entirely for show. The remainder of China’s promises made during the meeting were baby steps in the right direction, but nowhere near enough. This sounds most unpromising for life surrounding the islands, however, there is hope.

If this is the first your hearing of this,  head here for an overview.

So, what’s happened since then?

 Ecuador has confirmed that it has become a member of the Global Ocean Alliance (GOA). The GOA is a UK-led international coalition with 26 member countries, that is pushing for at least 30% of the global ocean to become MPAs by 2030. The current estimate is around 10%. This is important to the current situation as Ecuador is attempting to extend its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), closing the gap between Ecuador and the Galapagos islands. The triangle of high seas between the Galapagos, Ecuador and Costa Rica would be declared a protected area and marine reserve, meaning stronger enforcement and protection of the biological corridor which many migratory species make use of. This is great in theory but many question whether Ecuador has the resources to increase the surveillance and monitoring needed. The support of GOA is a step in the right direction alongside a resolution (discussed in further detail below) by the National Assembly supporting the extension of the Galapagos Marine Reserve by 188 nautical miles. 

UNESCO finally released a statement, which reminds Ecuador that “the protection of properties on the World Heritage List is the duty of the international community as a whole” and that they “have the obligation to refrain from any deliberate measures which might damage directly or indirectly the cultural and natural heritage protected under the Convention.”. The full statement can be found here.

An update that is slightly less optimistic is that the number of Chinese vessels has increased from 260 to 340, coinciding with an increase in whale carcasses, shark carcasses, plastic litter and oil drums covered in Chinese markings washing up on nearby shorelines. It has also come to light that Chinese fleets have been fishing the Galapagos waters for many years, well over the three years previously reported, only with smaller fleets and as such has gone unreported.