Fishing fleets in the Galapagos . . .
Since mid-July, a fleet of more than 300 Chinese-flagged fishing vessels has been operating in international waters 350 km southeast of Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. It is the fourth consecutive year that Chinese ships have been in the area, and is the largest fleet to date. The flotilla includes industrial-scale fishing boats, as well as refrigerated ‘reefer’ container ships that hold up to 1,000 tonnes. Maritime law prohibits cargo transfer between vessels, and Galapagos administrators are requesting inspections of reefers to check for endangered species and illegally transferred fish after Ecuador’s navy conducted intensive aerial and marine surveillance last week. Ecuador favours a long-term regional response and proposed a meeting with its Pacific-facing neighbours to present a formal protest.
Survey ships in the Philippines . . .
Meanwhile, the head of the Philippines’ navy is calling for a diplomatic protest against China due to the presence since August 4 of two Chinese research ships in a disputed area of the South China Sea. This follows an incident in February when a Chinese warship aimed its guns at a Philippine Navy patrol vessel. Both countries claim sovereignty over the fish- and oil-rich area about 150 km from the Philippines’ Palawan Island and 1,100 km from China’s Hainan Province. President Rodrigo Duterte has declared the entry of Chinese vessels into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone unpreventable and not worth risking naval forces to enforce sovereignty.
Room for improvement . . .
As catches in China’s coastal waters dwindle and demand for seafood increases, Chinese vessels are increasingly numerous in the Pacific and South China Sea, where there are frequent accusations of territorial incursions, aggression against local fishing boats, dredging resulting in coastal erosion, and illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing. In June, China’s Bureau of Fisheries announced plans to hold the first-ever, three-month closed season on squid fishing in parts of the Atlantic and Pacific to facilitate repopulation. While some praise this as a step in addressing issues with China’s distant-water fishing industry, others say stronger oversight is crucial.
- The Diplomat: The environmental costs of China’s maritime ambition
- The Guardian: ‘They just pull up everything!’ Chinese fleet raises fears for Galápagos sea life
- South China Morning Post: South China Sea: Philippine navy chief warns of Chinese ‘provocation’