“It’s terrifying”: Xi Jinping’s fishing army moves off the coast of Ecuador with impunity
The fleet has 17 thousand ships. The Chinese regime claims to fight them, but gives them monumental subsidies. In Galapagos, an area whose biodiversity is protected, there are more than 300 ships lurking
August 25, 2020
Ecuadorian Navy ships surround a fishing boat after detecting a Chinese-flagged fleet in an international corridor that borders the exclusive economic zone of the Galapagos Islands, in the Pacific Ocean (Reuters)
It is the illegal army with which Xi Jinping intends to take the seas of the whole world as his own. More than 17 thousand Chinese fishing vessels are distributed along the coasts of the mostly defenseless countries in a bid to plunder their maritime wealth. There are few states that can combat the permanent harassment of this fleet which flouts international laws and devastates biodiversity and the environment.
Ecuador, in Latin America, is one of the nations that suffer the most. After the Government of Lenín Moreno openly denounced the illegal activity and blamed the Chinese regime’s laziness in acting, the Chinese ambassador in Quito said that they would have “zero tolerance” against fishing boats. It was the closest thing to a taunt the local government ever heard from Beijing.
Chinese ships have vast experience in circumventing international standards. They dodge radars by silencing their own so that no maritime authority – neither in Ecuador nor on any other coast of the world – can detect where they are fishing. When they cast their nets, they collect more kilos of food than allowed. By emptying the sea bottoms near the coasts of developing countries, in many occasions they deprive local populations of food whose only sustenance to survive is fishing with precarious instruments. Communism of the XXI Century.
The truth is that recent reports show that the regime, led by Xi Jinping, invests in the overseas fleet. It subsidizes fishing through tax exemptions, allowing them to buy fuel at a very low price. The total state aid from Beijing for this industry exceeds 16 billion dollars each year. The regime cannot be ignored.
In the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos Islands – extremely rich in biodiversity and a World Heritage Site – are one of the centers most harassed by Chinese piracy. Beijing announced that it would sanction captains and ships operating in hiding. However, no one believes that they are going to comply with laws that aren’t being complied with any no longer or which are not being enforced.
“Beyond this one-sided announcement, the problem remains the same. These vessels operate without observers on board, they do not return to port, they transfer their catch to mother ships (transshipment), which then land the catch in ports. So, in a nutshell, they are fishing all the time and the fishing operation does not stop “, says Pablo Guerrero, director of marine conservation of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Ecuador to the English newspaper The Guardian .
For his part, Miren Gutiérrez, from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), said that the simple view of the Chinese fleet “looks like a very fragmented fleet” and added: “But we suspect that the core is probably in the hands of a few companies. Having depleted fish stocks in domestic waters and encouraged by subsidies, China’s distant water fishing fleets have been traveling further and further, and their companies have been building more and more vessels to meet the growing demand for products. from the sea, ”Gutiérrez added.
“To change the dynamics there needs to be radical transparency. So far, the evidence has shown that the Chinese government has not gone beyond rhetoric, “said Philip Chou, a distant-water fishing expert at Oceana, a marine conservation group who knows perfectly how the fishing navy operates with Xi Jinping.
The Government of Ecuador seems alone before the naval power that circumvents its controls and that has the underhanded consent of the Asian regime. But the Moreno government is not the only one suffering from such maritime harassment. Latin America is not even the only subcontinent that sees its waters being plundered. In the South China Sea – which Beijing is trying to overtake – other countries see illegal fishing boats plying their waters. It also happens in Africa.
Steve Trent, executive director of the Environmental Justice Foundation, warned that marine wildlife will continue to be endangered unless there is “large-scale structural change by China and by the global ocean governance system in order to ensure that the Chinese comply with the law. The people who suffer first and worst are almost always the coastal communities that depend on these fisheries for their survival, well-being and food. Exactly what happens in the Galapagos happens in places around the world and it is terrifying,” concluded the expert.
Now, 340 Chinese vessels without permits remain crouched in the vicinity of those islands. They know that the surveillance of the Ecuadorian navy will not last forever: it involves extraordinary expenses to cover an area of about 197,300 square kilometers in the exclusive continental maritime zone, while in the archipelago it is about 419,700 square kilometers.
Galapagos – a World Heritage Site, according to the United Nations – has one of the ecosystems richest in biodiversity on the planet. “While out on cruise ships, we have seen that there are quite a lot of Chinese bottles on the beaches of remote places,” Natali Constante, a guide to the island, said days ago.
To make matters worse, this voracity of fishing threatens the local inhabitants of those islands. Against the economy and against the daily plate. Commercial fishing is allowed in some areas of the exclusive reserve. Lobster, for example, is an important source of income for the local population. Additionally, Ecuadorian fishermen regularly travel to the area in search of dorado, shark and tuna. Today, if you look up, you might see a border of Chinese ships.
“China acts as an imperial power that illegally exploits natural resources in exchange for selling cheap merchandise,” complained a European businessman based in Latin America who knows how these illegal groups act. He prefers to protect his identity in order to keep his fishing license.
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