Naval Aviation, Guayaquil, August 7, 08:00 in the morning. Uniformed personnel enter and leave one of their offices, as well as a group of people outside the institution who carry cameras, tape recorders and curiosity, very curious. Suddenly, the murmur of their voices is interrupted in the room by the order emanating from naval personnel: no one will be able to get on the plane or enter the Galapagos if the covid-19 test is not performed . Then, he urges those present, with a forceful voice, to approach the brigade that is in charge of such procedure.
Silence returns and testing becomes the common denominator. Then comes the induction talk and a general explanation of what happens at the site where the flight is heading. An hour later, the uniformed personnel manifests: All negative, board the plane.
The AN 204 House of the Naval Aviation, for maritime exploration , pulls up at 10:20 am and between the naval crew and journalists , 25 souls depart for international waters. The day is cloudy, everything is silence, except for some whispering that is heard from time to time, until the fourth hour of flight, when the movement begins: “There is one”, says an officer, and all those gathered there turn their gaze towards the site designated to capture the fact.
“There is another, here another and further on another …”, they chant, almost in unison, camera at the ready, guests and part of the crew. Then everything becomes a feast of flashes and a kind of sighting competition.
An official reports that the plane flies over international waters and that according to the georeferencing at that time, the Chinese fishing fleet is 223 nautical miles away from the Galapagos Islands , which means that it is not in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Ecuador . In that place, a coast guard unit and a war surface unit from Ecuador are navigating, in situ, doing control exercises in order to deter the fishing fleet , but the Manabí missile corvette, a missile corvette , is also part of this operation. helicopter and the San Cristóbal coastguard boat .
Since the end of June, four units rotate to monitor the Chinese flag fleet and will remain there, carrying out surveillance operations, until when necessary, says Lieutenant Commander Deán Almeida , however, he is aware that this will not happen soon because these vessels that predate the species can stay in the high seas for more than a year , without approaching a port.
The vessels look small from above, however the Chinese flag fleet is not only made up of large fishing vessels but also tankers (which supply fuel) and factory vessels . The rust patina that surrounds them reveals that they remain in the sea all the time.
“We had a special case in the northern area of the Insular region , where a Chinese flag ship named Xiyu Yun was detected, which within its satellite identity indicated that it was a fishing vessel, but when it was intercepted it was discovered that it was a tanker , before which the corresponding maritime authority notified of the anomaly “, says Lieutenant Commander Diego Terán.
The monitoring system collects that this is the largest fishing fleet operating in the entire Pacific Ocean and that its fishing activities are continuous (there is only a crew replacement). It is not in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Ecuador, but its fishing is not friendly to the environment and, above all, it is close to the jurisdiction of Ecuador, a problem that affects not only the Galapagos and the Navy, but the entire country and the world .
Making a comparison that can be useful for everyone, it could be said that the ships occupy a surface similar to that of three provinces on the Coast: which could well be Los Ríos, Guayas and El Oro , but the plane’s monitors show little distance between one and the other because the scale is small, although there are sections in the overflight in which up to four ships can be seen on the LCD of a camera display at the same time .
In fact, between one ship and another there must be a distance of between one and two kilometers, and in other cases between 5 and 20 kilometers, says Captain Terán. The area over which the aircraft is hovering is located 400 km from the Galapagos Islands, that is, 200 miles , a place where there are innumerable food resources because Ecuador is in a privileged position as it is in the middle of the continent , a place where currents converge. cold and warm , a union that produces food for marine fauna .
The problems of the fishing fleet in these waters can be summarized in four facts:
First, indiscriminate or long line fishing , which catches not only fish but also whales, sharks, turtles and other species (there are regulations in this regard through a fisheries management organization of which Ecuador is part and China is also part , but this organization only regulates the fishing of certain protected species, such as the silky shark – Carcharhinus Falciformis -, a species that has special treatment because it is protected because Chinese-flagged vessels cut their fins to sell them in the Asian country at onerous prices ).
Second, between the 300 and 400 vessels that make up the Chinese fishing fleet there could be a related crime because there are tanker vessels that provide fuel to the fleet , however they are legally chartered, which is not a crime , but it may be that Ecuadorian tanker vessels They are involved and, although that is not illegal either, it is not ethical (it is known that they also deliver fuel from Panama ), hence the Chinese fleet can fish for up to a year without going into port .
Third, according to international law, the Solas Convention (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, an international treaty that regulates the safety of ships ) establishes certain requirements or standards for the safety of those who work in the vessel. sea, and within this convention there are rules, for example each of its ships must carry a satellite monitoring device when it is at sea , but this can be easily turned off or cloned, and when it is turned off (there is evidence that ships fishing boats do) these vessels enter the Exclusive Economic Zone of Ecuador to fish illegally .
Fourth: the Navy does a good job but it requires the assistance of the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Trade, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Defense to articulate a public policy on the part of the State . The Navy, says Captain Diego Terán , controls the exclusive zones, but the processing of cases, such as placing corresponding offices or resources at the international level is the responsibility of the State, since the Navy can only operate in flagrante delicto cases, as in 2017 , when the ship Fu Yuan Yu Leng invaded the Exclusive Economic Zone of Ecuador and was apprehended .
There are monitoring systems both at the base in continental Ecuador and at the base of Insular Ecuador, in coordination with the Galapagos National Park, and when the vessels turn off their monitoring system, the fact is recorded, but when reaching the site where it is located The ship that commits the crime the Naval Force can take between three or four hours by plane and between two and two and a half days by boat, so flagrante delicto is lost and it is no longer the responsibility of the Navy to sanction, but of the State , because according to the policy of the flag state the one that has to sanction is China.
The Chinese fishing fleet sails from the southeast (July) to the southwest of the Insular region (August) . The problem has worsened since 2015. Despite the fact that Galapagos is a world-renowned marine reserve, the resources are not only from Galapagos, but from the entire country and the depredation of resources affects all of humanity, even more so when The radars of the monitoring plane reveal during the overflight that although there are no vessels in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Ecuador, around 50 vessels sail in a diameter of 33 miles (53 km), that is, one boat for every kilometer.