Esperanza the Whale shark disappears after the Galápagos islands are invaded by Chinese Fishing Vessels

A huge fleet of Chinese fishing boats have alarmed the Galapagos Islands Navy: Ecuador warned that it will enforce its maritime sovereignty The Government of the South American country after it was reported that the vessels navigate international waters between the continental Exclusive Economic Zone and that of the archipelago. The Navy monitors them to prevent them from violating the territorial waters, every year there are some Chinese fishing vessels but this year there are noticably a lot more than usual.

It is a fishing fleet of more than 250 boats, mainly under the Chinese flag, that navigate international waters between continental Ecuador and the Galapagos Archipelago, and which is monitored by the Navy in case they violate Ecuadorian territorial waters.

Conservation scientists were tracking Esperanza, a famous Galapagos female whale shark (Rhincodon typus), an endangered species. Jonathan Green and Dr Alex Hearn,  are leading researchers in the study of whale sharks in and around Galapagos through the Galapagos Whale Shark Project. They had fitted Esperanza with a tracking device for their research. Esperanza stopped transmitting its location in Galapagos, after the ships arrived. The Galapagos Islands have a territory of 96% of Protected areas, they are recognized as Natural heritage of humanity to protect unique marine flora and fauna. Whale sharks are the largest fish species on the planet and are classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. The vast majority of whale sharks found in Galapagos are not only female, but pregnant females (almost 99% of them, according to researchers).

Sharks fins, especially whale sharks, are extremely valuable in many parts of Asia for food. Millions of sharks, many of them of endangered species, are killed each year solely for their fins. Esperanza was last seen between the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Galapagos Marine Reserve.

Esperanza was tagged in September 2019 as part of a scientific monitoring project looking at the habits of whale sharks in and around Galapagos. The signals from her tags stopped transmitting on May 20, 2020. Norman Wray, the President of the Galapagos Governing Council, announced the disappearance of Esperanza’s transmissions and included his worry and suspicion of the flotilla’s possible involvement. Wray shared the news via a tweet.

The Ecuadorian Government has warned China that it will enforce its maritime sovereignty around the Galapagos Archipelago, some 1,000 kilometers from the mainland coast, given the close proximity to these waters of the Chinese fishing fleet.

“The Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry has taken steps both in Beijing and in Quito to make known to the Chinese authorities that Ecuador enforces its maritime rights without difference of flags,” Foreign Minister Luis Gallegos said Thursday in a statement released by his office where he warns that “those rights are not to be violated”.

The minister recalled the words of his defense colleague, Oswaldo Jarrín, at a press conference hours earlier, in which he assured that “not a single Chinese or other nationality ship will enter the Exclusive Economic Zone, nor the island nor the territory of Ecuador” .

Gallegos reiterated that, through diplomatic channels, this sovereign position has been made known to the authorities of China and all the nationalities of the ships whose flags are present in the international fishing fleet in the equatorial Pacific.

In 2017, a ship from a similar fleet entered a nature reserve in Ecuadorian waters and was intercepted by the Navy with a shipment of prohibited species and at risk of extinction, for which the Andean country brought its crew to trial and confiscated the ship. .

According to the Foreign Ministry statement, the Chinese Government has assured that “no ship of that nationality will enter the Exclusive Economic Zone of Ecuador and less to the waters of the Galapagos Marine Reserve.”

The first extends for 200 miles around the archipelago, while the second reaches 40 miles.

Uno de los gráficos que publicó la Cancillería ecuatoriana (@CancilleriaEc)


The minister stressed that the Foreign Ministry is using all resources in international law to protect their rights, and that it will undertake “consultations with the Pacific rim countries, especially Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Peru to advance joint solutions and intensify diplomatic actions aimed at combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. ”

by Carlita Shaw


Spanish sources

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