Opinion: China and the marine reserve
October 25, 2020
Walter Spurrier Baquerizo
The Chinese fishing navy, some 340 huge boats that surrounded the Galapagos in August, continued to Peru, where public opinion was as shocked as the national one: the feeling that they were taking everything alive from the waters. In October it was Chile’s turn.
The presence of the fleet in the vicinity of Ecuador motivated some environmental organizations, including Más Galápagos, to request the expansion of the Galapagos marine reserve.
In the public imagination, both things are related: expanding the reserve and thus protecting the tuna, giant squid and sharks of the Chinese fleet. But no. The one has nothing to do with the other. The reserve is 40 nautical miles. There they can only fish artisanal and sports boats. From 40 to 200 miles, which is where the exclusive zone of Ecuador reaches, only the national fleet can fish. After 200 miles, they are international waters, and everyone can fish, within the rules of Convemar. The Chinese are outside the 200 miles. And since there are 200 miles around the Galapagos and 200 miles from the mainland, this leaves a strip between the two exclusive zones where the Chinese ships are located, and nothing can be done except watch that they do not get into the exclusive zones.
The national fleet fishes just outside 40 miles, because the islands are favorable to feeding tuna. They are the only ones in the eastern Pacific, unlike the western Pacific (Asia), where there are numerous archipelagos and therefore more tuna than in tropical America. Thailand is the world’s leading producer, with lower costs than Ecuador. Our country is the second world exporter. Fishing in the Pacific of America is rigorously regulated, there are fishing quotas and a closed period.
If the marine reserve is expanded, our tuna fleet would fish less, its costs would be higher. Due to restrictions in the US market, which protects its two canning factories in American Samoa, the national tuna industry subsists thanks to the agreement with Europe. But lately the European Union is opening up to Asian, Thai and Filipino tuna, which are taking away the market from national tuna.
The global environmental movement provides a great service, creating environmental awareness and ensuring that mankind has less impact on nature, global warming is controlled and species extinction is stopped. But in their zeal environmentalists advocate extreme causes. The 7,800 million terráqueos would starve if we did not fish for tuna, if we do without shrimp farms to preserve immaculate estuaries, if we do not have banana plantations and other crops, because monoculture threatens diversity and promotes pests. There would be no advanced society without iron and copper mines, and no oil extraction.
Expanding the marine reserve would be an exaggeration. And the Chinese fleet would not move a hair.
Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2021