Government announces new strategy to protect Galapagos Islands

A team of experts from the public and private sector carries out the strategy that aims to protect the Galapagos Islands. The document will be ready in the next few days.

Mayuri Castro
July 30, 2020

This report is part of the alliance between GK and Mongabay Latam

The president of Ecuador, Lenín Moreno, announced on July 27 the formation of a team of experts to design a protection strategy for the Galapagos Islands. The decision was made after the presence of approximately 260 fishing and supply vessels on the edge of the archipelago’s territorial limit on July 16.

The team will be led by the Chancellor, Luis Gallegos Chiriboga, who has held the position since the beginning of July; Roque Sevilla, ecologist and former mayor of Quito, and Yolanda Kakabadse, former Minister of Environment of Ecuador between 1998 and 2000. The ministers of Defense, Industries and Fisheries, Environment and Water, and the President of the Governing Council of Galapagos, Norman Wray, as well as a representative of the Galapagos community and the artisanal and industrial fishing sector of Ecuador. The names of all the experts who will make up this working group are not yet known.

Moreno said that it is a team that will have specialists from the public and private sectors. Kakabadse added that experts working on the strategy, including scientists and lawyers, must have knowledge of international treaties, marine reserves and fisheries. And he announced that they have already begun to work on the strategy that he estimates will be completed by the first days of August.

An immense fishing fleet threatens the Galapagos

On July 16, 2020, the Ecuadorian Navy detected, in its continuous monitoring, the presence of a foreign fishing fleet very close to the Galapagos Exclusive Insular Economic Zone (ZEEI). In this area, the Ecuadorian State has sovereign rights for the purpose of exploration, exploitation and conservation of living and non-living natural resources, both in the waters and in the soil and subsoil of the sea.

Seven days after the alert, in a press conference, the Minister of Defense of Ecuador, Oswaldo Jarrín, confirmed that the fishing fleet came from the South Pacific, which a month ago was in Peru and that the State was already monitoring these activities. . In addition, he assured that the vessels are on the outer limit of the Galapagos Exclusive Economic Zone (ZEEI) but that “it has never entered, it has passed, no ship has entered, nor can it do so,” said Jarrín.

A fleet of about 260 Chinese vessels fish south of the Galapagos Exclusive Economic Zone. Photo: Global Fishing Watch

Even so, President Moreno announced in a video posted on Twitter that Ecuador will establish relations with Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Peru and Chile to “have a regional position on these types of threats. In fact, the Foreign Minister of Ecuador, Luis Gallegos, assured that he will have a meeting with the countries bordering the Pacific to present the situation and reach agreements that allow defending the conservation and sustainability of natural resources.

According to Yolanda Kakabadse, the strategy will consist of formalizing the corridor of marine reserves between Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador, and that would make it possible to protect a large area where commercial ships cannot enter.

The strategy also seeks to improve diplomatic relations. According to Kakabadse, although the ships are of Chinese nationality, they are private, so the government of that country can support Ecuador in defending its resources, “and we hope it will do so,” said the former minister. In addition, at the same press conference on July 27, Foreign Minister Luis Gallegos said that there are also ships with the flags of Liberia and Panama.

Some scientists, however, warn that fleets such as the Chinese are heavily subsidized so, in the opinion of Alex Muñoz, director of Pristine Seas, “it is very important to reach an agreement to end fisheries subsidies”, if at all. wants to end overfishing on the high season.

For Kakabadse, protecting the Galapagos Islands – declared a Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978 and a Biosphere Reserve in 1984 – is not only a matter of interest to Ecuador, but to the entire planet, “because they are a source of life for humanity”.

According to Juan Carlos Herrera, an expert in international dispute resolution, Ecuador could put pressure on the Chinese State through diplomatic channels, draw attention to what is happening and make it a topic of global debate by applying dispute resolution mechanisms that

It’s not the first time

The arrival of the Chinese fishing fleet to the limits of the Ecuadorian insular maritime territory is nothing new. Every year, around 300 Asian boats come to these latitudes to catch, mainly, giant squid. “I don’t see much difference with what has happened in previous years, however now it is more mediatic,” Rear Admiral Daniel Gínez, Commander of Naval Operations, told Mongabay Latam.

The situation has set off all the alarms of the Ecuadorian society that still remembers August 13, 2017, when the Ecuadorian Navy captured the Chinese ship Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 with 300 tons of spectacled thresher sharks, (Alopias superciliosus), mako (Isurus oxyrinchus), silky (Carcharhinus falciformis) and hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini).

Authorities reported that protected species such as Hammerhead shark and Silky shark (silky) were found in the Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 cold stores. Photo: Galapagos National Park Directorate

The 20 crew members who were on board the ship were arrested and on August 27, 2017, the Multicompetent Judicial Unit of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, canton of the province of Galapagos, sentenced the ship’s captain to four years in prison, three years for his close collaborators and a year for the other members of the crew.

They were also sentenced to pay 5.9 million dollars as compensation, but so far no one from the government has ruled on whether Ecuador received that money.

According to the Commander of the Navy, Ecuador is monitoring the maritime border 24 hours a day to prevent episodes such as Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 from happening again.

Read the article by Mayuri Castro for GK at bit.ly/0730gk

Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2020

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