Ecuador considers new Galapagos marine reserve to limit commercial fishing

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The Ecuadorian government plans to create a new marine reserve near the Galapagos Islands to protect migratory species of turtles, whales and sharks threatened by industrial fishing and climate change.

A massive Chinese fishing fleet operating near the Galapagos caught the world’s attention last year amid concerns over the potential impact on marine life in remote islands that inspired the scientist’s theory of evolution. British Charles Darwin. Ecuador has little recourse to prevent Chinese fleets from fishing along its waters, but can limit the activities of its own national commercial fishing industry, Environment Minister Gustavo Manrique said.

“This plan, if it comes to fruition, would have social, economic and environmental impacts,” Manrique said in an interview. He admitted that the idea is rejected by industrial groups. “In terms of the environment, there is no doubt that having more area in reserve offers more protection. These are the two other questions which are under discussion.

The proposal would triple the size of the existing 133,000 km² reserve, one of the largest in the world, thereby helping to reduce the likelihood of migratory species being caught in the nets of the Ecuadorian fishing fleet. This would help protect a wide range of marine life, including five endangered species that migrate between the Galapagos and Cocos Island, a territory of Costa Rica located in the Pacific Ocean.

The proposed plan comes as the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity prepares for an October nature conservation summit that will include discussions on proposals such as conserving at least a third of the planet. within a decade.

Climate change also threatens to reduce reproduction rates of marine wildlife and alter their migratory patterns, according to a document outlining the proposal to increase the area under conservation.

Ecuador’s industrial fishing fleet draws nearly a third of its catch from the waters around the Galapagos. And fishing provides nearly a third of Ecuador’s non-oil exports, totaling more than $ 1.5 billion in 2020, according to the central bank.

“We agree that the Galapagos is a treasure of humanity to be taken care of, but we do not share the technical foundations of the new reserve,” said Bruno Leone of the National Fisheries Chamber of Ecuador.

In 2017, Ecuador impounded a captured Chinese fishing vessel carrying 300 tonnes of endangered or nearly extinct shark species, a major embarrassment for the Chinese fishing industry. For several years, Chinese fleets have spent the summer months fishing for giant squid right at the edge of the Galapagos Exclusive Economic Zone, a marine area where ships can only tap natural or mineral sources with permission from Ecuador. China insists that its fishing vessels comply with international fishing regulations and have not entered protected waters illegally. A 2016 scientific research paper said there was not enough data to understand the giant squid population and migration patterns in Ecuadorian waters, creating a risk of overfishing.


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