U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on China to stop all “illegal fishing” Thursday.
He said the recent reports of hundreds of Chinese vessels off of the Galapagos Islands is "deeply troubling,”
“Reports of 300+ Chinese vessels near the Galapagos disabling tracking systems, changing ship names, and leaving marine debris are deeply troubling. We again call on the PRC [People’s Republic of China] to be transparent and enforce its own zero tolerance policy on illegal fishing,” Pompeo said in a tweet, referencing similar calls he made earlier this month.
The comments came after Ecuador raised the alarm to the presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels fishing near protected waters off of the Galápagos marine reserve.
Earlier this month, Pompeo accused China of illegally harvesting sharks for their fins, and illegally fishing other protected species.
But under pressure from the Ecuadorian government, the Chinese embassy in Eduardo reportedly announced a “zero tolerance” policy to illegal fishing practices, and claimed to have tightened fishing regulations for the 340 plus flotilla off of Ecuador, according to a report by The Guardian.
China is responsible for 15% of the globe’s yearly fishing, according to a 2020 UN Food and Agriculture Organization report. Though due to a lack of transparency in reporting and known illegal fishing practices, it is unknown how large their annual haul actually is.
A report released late last month by Science Advances showed that more than 900 Chinese vessels in 2017, and more than 700 vessels in 2018, illegally fished in North Korean waters, violating U.N. sanctions.
“The scale of the fleet involved in this illegal fishing is about one-third the size of China’s entire distant water fishing fleet,” senior data scientist at Global Fishing Watch, Jaeyoon Park, said in a statement last month. “It is the largest known case of illegal fishing perpetrated by vessels originating from one country operating in another nation’s waters.”
Though China has claimed to have tightened their regulations on illegal fishing, Ecaudorian Navy Commander, Rear Admiral Darwin Jarrin, told reporters last week that 149 ships of the remaining 325 vessels, have turned off their satellite feed at one point or another — making them harder to track as they remain near a marine reserve, according to a report by Reuters.
“It is a breach (of protocol) on the high seas, because they do not want us to know what they are doing and the activities they carry out,” Ecuadorian Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrin said.
China’s stricter regulations include harsher penalties for captains and companies found to be involved in illegal fishing or under-reporting.