Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China.
A vast fleet of Chinese fishing boats was spotted off Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands last month, triggering alarm in Quito and prompting concerns about the threat to numerous vulnerable species in the protected waters around what is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The presence of so many Chinese fishing vessels off South America’s Pacific coast also raised more questions about China’s distant-water fishing industry.
Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, formally complained to China after the Ecuadorian navy announced it had spotted 260 mostly Chinese fishing vessels anchored in international waters near the Galapagos. Ecuador has since increased patrols of the region and started designing a “protection strategy” for the islands. It said it would also hold consultations with other Latin American countries along the Pacific coast in order to devise a joint regional position regarding this “threat.” Ecuador’s defense minister said the country hopes to avoid “an incident such as what happened in 2017,” when it discovered large numbers of sharks on board a Chinese fishing vessel it seized in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Twenty of the boat’s crew members were jailed.