What are they doing? Panic as HUNDREDS of Chinese ships gather on edge of rival waters

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The Andean nation’s navy has conducted a patrol mission, which included a flyover of the region where the hulking vessels are fishing, as well as reconnaissance by military patrol ships. A total of 340 vessels are currently in international waters just outside 188-mile wide exclusive economic zone which surrounds the island, a part of the Republic of Ecuador, the navy said, compared with some 260 reported last month.

It comes amid concerns about the environmental impact of fishing in the area of the ecologically sensitive islands.

Foreign Minister Luis Gallegos said Beijing had agreed to hold bilateral talks about the issue.

He said: “China accepts Ecuador’s supervision of Chinese fishing vessels that are at sea.”

Mr Gallegos said Chinese authorities have vowed a policy of “zero tolerance” toward vessels linked to illegal fishing and the companies that own those vessels.

The fleet has since 2017 been arriving in the summer months and fishing just outside the Galapagos territorial waters, drawn by marine species such as the endangered hammerhead shark.

Such fishing is not illegal because it takes place in international waters.

And Ecuador cannot prevent fishing in the international waters at the edge of Galapagos Exclusive Economic Zone, which contain abundant marine species, including endangered sharks, flamingos and turtles, that spill over from the Galapagos.

But environmental activists say it allows fleets to take advantage of the abundant marine species that spill over from the Galapagos and cross into the unprotected waters.

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Mr Gallegos added: “This is not something that will change overnight.

“It is necessary to generate bilateral agreements with other countries with regards to illegal fishing, to monitor every ship that’s in the South Pacific.”

 

Images taken as part of the flyover showed that at least one of the vessels appeared to be ageing and in need of maintenance.

Ecuador President Lenín Moreno previously said he would work to further protect the area.

He posted on Twitter: “We will work in a regional position to defend and protect the Exclusive Economic Zone around the Galápagos Marine Reserve, one of the richest fishing areas and a hotbed of life for the entire planet.”

It comes after a Chinese fishing vessels was found in the Galapagos Marine Reserve, carrying a 330 tonnes of marine wildlife in 2017.

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