The foreign fishing vessels pillaged the protected waters near the Galapagos Marine Reserve to catch squid, which are crucial to the survival of area species such as fur seals, hammerhead sharks and tuna, according to data analyzed by the marine conservation group Oceana.
“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 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.”
The Chinese-flagged ships were seen snatching the squid between July 13 and Aug. 13, raking in a total of 73,000 hours of illicit fishing, according to an online mapping tool used by the group.
The Galapagos Islands are considered an environmental gem with more than 20 percent of its marine species found nowhere else on Earth. In total, 99 percent of fishing activity in the area during the one-month period was done by the Chinese, the organization said.
To analyze data about the ships, the group used a Global Fishing Watch tool, which teams up Google and the environmental watchdog group SkyTruth to log satellite imagery.
“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,” Valentine said. “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.”