Oceana Finds China’s Fishing Fleet Swarms Galápagos, then Disappears from Sight - Oceana USA

Report | December, 2023

Oceana Finds China’s Fishing Fleet Swarms Galápagos, then Disappears from Sight


According to a new Oceana analysis, China’s massive distant-water fleet flocks to the waters surrounding the Galápagos Islands, then frequently disappears. The vessels “go dark” from public view by appearing to disable public tracking devices. China’s fishing fleet was identified by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activity and human rights abuses in the agency’s  2023 biennial report to U.S. Congress. The United States imported more than $686 million worth of squid from China and Hong Kong over the past five years.  

In addition to Chinese-flagged vessels appearing to disable their tracking devices, Oceana’s analysis shows them engaging in potential encounter events with other vessels known as transshipment. Transshipment occurs when fishing vessels meet with refrigerated cargo ships at sea to transfer their catch instead of coming into port, which can hide illicit activity by mixing legal and illegal catches. While not illegal, transshipment is often an additional risk factor associated with IUU activity. Crew members can also be exchanged during transshipment events, which is cause for major concern around forced labor practices. The amount of unregulated fishing activity around the Galápagos, and the number of times vessels flagged to China appeared to disable their public tracking devices, far surpassed that of vessels flagged to any other country that appeared to fish in the area.

Read the report here.

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