Are China’s Galapagos Fishing Missions Going Dark?

Sea turtle swimming through a school of fish over the coral reef at Darwin Island.

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. Aug. 27, 2020: The Galapagos Islands remain a hugely popular zone for tourists and explorers alike. However, it appears that Chinese vessels which previously seemed to be fishing in the region have made it more difficult for trackers to locate them.

Fishing is a hugely popular pastime, of course, as is playing golf; however, there no room for that on the Chinese vessels. Instead, when they went dark, some suggested the crews could be passing the time playing Poker, via the likes of best NJ online poker. However, this kind of fishing probably doesn’t allow for much personal time. Why? Because the region around the Galapagos is of ecological interest, and Ecuadorian authorities are showing concern.

Ships Stick Around, But Communication Is Lacking

Earlier this year, a fleet of multiple Chinese boats and fishing vessels aligned themselves with the sensitive waters around Galapagos. According to Ecuadorian authorities, many of them have ‘gone dark’. This means that they have shut off visible communications and tracking, making it impossible for outsiders to keep tabs on them.

There are said to be around 325 vessels in the waters believed to be fishing in the zone. “149 ships have turned off their satellite systems,” advised Rear Admiral Darwin Jarren, on behalf of the Ecuadorian Navy. “We know the names of the ships,” he continued, though this information was not disclosed to the press.

Ecuador has been growing concerned about these manoeuvres since early 2020. While the ships may not have breached any kind of water margin or boundary, the country’s defence minister is worried that China may be carrying out illegal activities. While they block satellite access, Ecuador will be unable to track them.

Breaching International Law?

Oswaldo Jarrin, Ecuadorian defence minister, believes that the Chinese ships which are going dark are breaking the law. Specifically, his concerns are that sustainable fishing laws are under threat.

“They do not want us to know what they are doing, and the activities they carry out,” Jarrin confirmed recently.

Admiral Jarrin, meanwhile, also believes that some of the vessels have changed names to avoid suspicion. At the time of writing, China’s embassy representatives have not commented.

The largest issue at stake is the fact that unseen fishing activities may be harming the Galapagos’ sensitive ecosystem. That has raised a particularly thorny issue with environmentalists.

However, Chinese appearance in the region is nothing new. While the country asserts it offers ‘zero tolerance’ on any kind of illegal fishery, the fact that several ships have locked down tracking has raised red flags.

What Next for Galapagos?

While Ecuador asserts that China has not breached any of its own interests, it remains concerned. Marine enthusiasts and environmentalists will be particularly worried regarding activity around threatened underwater habitats.

There is yet to be any reports of Chinese vessels entering what remains a protected UNESCO World Heritage Area. This issue, however, has led to ongoing negotiations between Ecuador and the eastern superpower.

The Galapagos Islands are hotbeds of incredible flora and fauna. It is here where some of the earliest evolutionary theories first formed. Therefore, interest in protecting the region, of course, will always be strong.