Chinese Boats Fishing Near Ecuador Are Emitting “False Coordinates”

Several Chinese boats, which are part of the foreign fleet that fish near Ecuador, would be emitting “false coordinates”; appear in New Zealand

Key points:

  • The Ecuadorian Armada and Equavisa confirm the foreign fleet fishing near Ecuadorian waters has increased from 260 to 340 boats
  • New Zealand media has reported that 6 vessels within the fleet fishing near Ecuador are falsely reporting their location as being currently inside the New Zealand EEZ
  • 5 of these 6 vessels are fishing legally as part of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization, and the sixth could not be identified. It is unclear why the locations are being reported falsely 
  • It is not verified that this is intentional “spoofing” of the AIS locators, but notes that additional behaviors, including going dark (turning their tracking monitors off altogether), are suspicious 
  • New Zealand faces an additional challenge with approximately 100 foreign ships “hiding in the waters between the Chatham Islands and a border with the high seas”
  • The New Zealand outlet notes that the hidden fleet and these AIS reporting discrepancies brings New Zealand into the international dispute about global fishing regulation

For more than a month, a fleet of 260 foreign vessels, mostly Chinese, has been fishing in international waters close to Ecuador

This morning, the Armed Forces of Ecuador confirmed, through satellite tracking, that the number of ships that make up the fleet of foreign vessels currently fishing in the vicinity of the country increased from 260 to 340 vessels. This was confirmed by Lenín Sánchez, national director of aquatic spaces at Ecuavisa.

In addition, several of these boats have falsely reported their location within New Zealand waters while fishing near Ecuadorian territory, according to the New Zealand media

The outlet claims that six vessels in the fleet “are transmitting false information through their Automatic Identification System transponders, making them appear to be fishing in New Zealand waters.”

Additionally, it indicates that these boats stopped broadcasting this location Tuesday night, based on Global Fishing Watch’s vessel tracking map.

“New Zealand has been dragged into the international dispute because ships are hiding in the waters between the Chatham Islands and a border with the high seas,” says the media.

Bjorn Bergman, an analyst at Global Fishing Watch and Skytruth, told Stuff that “no Chinese-flagged fishing vessels are currently fishing in New Zealand’s EEZ (exclusive economic zone). The clues that appear below are, in fact, from ships near the Galapagos Islands emitting false coordinates. “

Bergman noted that five of the six boats were legitimately fishing squid with the authorization of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization, an intergovernmental body charged with regulating high seas fishing. Instead, the sixth ship could not be identified.

It is not clear to the expert how the vessels were able to hide their true location and why they have decided to put them in New Zealand waters. But Bergman assured that it is a pattern identified in more than 100 fishing boats, mostly Chinese.

The compliance director for the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries, Gary Orr, said that they can track all commercial vessels within the New Zealand EEZ in “near real time”.

“We are aware of the positions these vessels have exhibited, but we are not aware of any verified information to suggest that this is being intentionally offset to misreport their actual positions,” he told Stuff.

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© SOS Galápagos, 2021

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