Oceana released a new analysis today that finds nearly 300 Chinese vessels pillaging the waters off the Galapagos Marine Reserve primarily for squid, which are essential to the diet of iconic Galapagos species such as fur seals and hammerhead sharks, as well as for many commercial and recreational fish species, including tuna and billfish, that contribute to the local economy.
Using the Global Fishing Watch — an independent nonprofit founded by Oceana in partnership with Google and SkyTruth — mapping tool, Oceana analyzed data from fishing vessels found near the Galapagos Islands from July 13 to Aug. 13, 2020. During this one-month period, Oceana documented the Chinese fleet, which was primarily fishing for squid, logged more than 73,000 total hours of apparent fishing.* In fact, 99% of the visible fishing activity off the Galapagos Islands during this one-month period was by Chinese-flagged vessels.
“For a month, the world watched and wondered what China’s enormous fishing fleet was doing off the Galapagos Islands, but now we know,” said Dr. Marla Valentine, Oceana’s illegal fishing and transparency analyst. “This massive and ongoing fishing effort of China’s fleet threatens the Galapagos Islands, the rare species that only call it home and everyone that depends on it for food and livelihoods. Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impact of China’s huge distant-water fishing fleet on our oceans. The situation playing out in the Galapagos should raise serious questions and concerns about the impact China’s massive fishing fleet is having on the oceans it sails.”
As part of its analysis, Oceana also documented Chinese vessels apparently disabling their public tracking devices, providing conflicting vessel identification information and engaging in potentially suspect transshipment practices, all of which can enable illicit activities.
“The governments of the world must work together to ensure that all seafood is safe, legally caught, responsibly sourced and honestly labeled to protect the oceans and the people who depend upon them,” said Beth Lowell, Oceana’s deputy vice president for U.S. campaigns.
The Galapagos Islands are a remote area nearly 900 kilometers off the coast of Ecuador and was once a “living laboratory” that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The area is an oasis for ocean wildlife with more than 20% of its marine species found nowhere else on Earth. The Galapagos Marine Reserve, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, covers more than 133,000 square kilometers surrounding the Galapagos Islands.
China is the world’s largest fishing nation by far, with a distant water fleet estimated at up to 17,000 vessels (compared to around 250 to 300 vessels for both the European Union and the United States), and accounts for 40% of the global fishing effort. China is also ranked the worst nation in the world by the IUU Fishing Index when it comes to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and its fleet has been routinely implicated in violations related to overfishing, targeting endangered shark species, illegal intrusion of jurisdiction, false licensing and catch documentation, and forced labor.
The actions of the Chinese fleet operating off the Galapagos Islands run counter to fishing rules implemented by China in recent months to allegedly improve fishing industry sustainability and ocean protection measures.
To learn more about Oceana’s campaign to increase transparency at sea, please click here.
*Any and all references to "fishing" should be understood in the context of Global Fishing Watch's fishing detection algorithm, which is a best effort to determine "apparent fishing effort" based on vessel speed and direction data from the Automatic Identification System (AIS) collected via satellites and terrestrial receivers. As AIS data varies in completeness, accuracy and quality, and the fishing detection algorithm is a statistical estimate of apparent fishing activity, therefore it is possible that some fishing effort is not identified and conversely, that some fishing effort identified is not fishing. For these reasons, GFW qualifies all designations of vessel fishing effort, including synonyms of the term "fishing effort," such as "fishing" or "fishing activity," as "apparent," rather than certain. Any/all GFW information about "apparent fishing effort" should be considered an estimate and must be relied upon solely at your own risk. GFW is taking steps to make sure fishing effort designations are as accurate as possible.