OPEN LETTER TO ECUADORIAN AND GLOBAL SOCIETY ON BEHALF OF THE ECUADORIAN YOUTH
24 JULY 2020, ECUADOR
To the Ecuadorian and global society,
In recent weeks, a fleet of 260 Chinese boats have been fishing at the limit of the 200 nautical miles that make up Ecuador’s Exclusive Economic Zone. The fleet is made up of fishing boats, cargo boats and storage vessels, which currently lurk at the edge of the Galápagos Islands Marine Reserve. This is the latest of many similar events that have been occurring for four consecutive years around this time of year.
The fleets keep growing in size, enlarging their capacity to deteriorate the marine ecosystem. Although technically fishing outside the marine reserve is legal, the questions we need to ask ourselves as humans are: is everything legal really correct? and, how much longer can marine ecosystems endure such unsustainable practices?
This event is incredibly alarming in an ecological sense, not only for Ecuador, but for the whole world. The Galápagos Islands, named by UNESCO in 1978 as a Natural Heritage of Humanity, are one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Additionally, its geographical location is at the strategic point where the main maritime currents of Humboldt, Cromwell and the El Niño converge, turning it into one of the most biodiverse and abundant areas in the world, given the high amount of nutrients present.
Consequently, this area filled with life becomes the strategic place to capture astronomical amounts of marine fauna, given that animals do not live based on the limits of reserves we create, nor the laws that we follow. This is why fishing near the reserve is so appealing, since, without much effort, unique species that live there in unparalleled quantities can be captured.
However, as humans we have to understand that the natural resources we have are not infinite. The industrial fishing that is taking place at the edge of the Galápagos Marine Reserve is not only for fish that are commonly consumed in global markets, but also for endangered species such as sharks, which are highly prized in Asian markets.
Those responsible for this attack on marine life in the Galápagos make up 1.5% of the massive Chinese fleet known worldwide as the Chinese Distant-water Fishing Fleet, which currently consists of around 17,000 boats*. If we do nothing about this and crossing the reserve’s border continues to be an imminent threat to species, our sanctuary of life will disappear.
*Source: https://www.odi.org/publications/16958-china-s-distant-water-fishing-fleet-scale-impact-and-governance | For easy access to this June 2020 report, visit: bit.ly/distantwaterfishing
With this letter we intend to raise awareness about the fact that the animals that inhabit the Galápagos Marine Reserve are currently facing extreme danger. We need to expand the current area of the Marine Reserve and gain international support to ban industrial fishing in areas with such vital ecological importance, as the one we have on the outskirts of Ecuador’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Even though fishing is legal in international waters, we need to reform international conventions so that there is a greater level of protection in this area of unparalleled uniqueness worldwide.
This is a call to Ecuadorians and to residents of the world. We have the responsibility to be the change we want to see. Together, we must demand for local and international authorities to help us protect and preserve this sanctuary. Let us raise our voices together and save our Galápagos Islands.
On behalf of the Ecuadorian youth,
Gabriela Neira, Martina Paz y Miño, Isabela Pérez, Macarena Vela and Gabriela Zaldumbide
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