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October 2021    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 47, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Galapagos Migratory Sharks Threatened by Giant Chinese Fishing Fleet

from the October, 2021 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The 1.4 billion citizens of China have an enormous appetite for seafood, and the water around the Galapagos Islands are a target.

To stop the threat of at least 340 Chinese fishing boats skirting the island, Ecuador has increased its territorial boundaries surrounding the Galapagos islands and dispatched its few gunboats to police them. But the migratory sharks still have to run the gauntlet of a high percentage of China's 17,000-boat fishing fleet armada that stands between them and their Pacific journey from the Galapagos, Costa Rica's Cocos Islands, and Colombia's Malpelo Islands.

Yes, you read that right. As many as 17,000 Chinese vessels create a deadly wall of lines and nets between those diving destinations we divers cherish, plucking out the sharks on their migratory journeys.

They know they're acting illegally. Many intermittently switch off their satellite communications and Automatic Identification System (AIS), breaching international rules for safety at sea and regional fisheries' management organizations.

The western Pacific isn't their only hunting ground, for China has overfished seas far from the world's gaze, from West Africa's Gulf of Guinea to the Korean Peninsula. In East Asia, Chinese fishing vessels act as a vanguard of an aggressive geopolitical strategy aimed at asserting territorial claims. It's terrifying.

China's own latest regulations include harsher penalties for companies and captains involved in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, but it's a question of scale. And whether they enforce it. By contrast, the U.S. distant-water fleet comprises 300 vessels.

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