Ecuador seeks to expand Galapagos reserve to protect marine life


Hoping to protect migratory marine species threatened by overfishing and climate change, the Ecuadorian government has proposed expanding marine reserves near the Galapagos Islands, a haven for sharks, turtles and whales.

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 was rejected by industrial groups.

“In terms of the environment, there is no doubt that having more area in reserve offers more protection. Those are the other two issues that are under discussion.”

The proposal would triple the size of the existing reserve of 133,000 square kilometers (51,352 square miles), one of the largest in the world, helping to reduce the likelihood of migratory species being caught in the nets of the fishing fleet. Ecuadorian.

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 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 fauna 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 Chinese fishing vessel caught transporting 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 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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