BEIJING – China will begin a three-month fishing moratorium Sept. 1 in international waters off the coast of the Ecuadorian Galapagos Islands, joining the one started last month off the Argentine coast, Ecuadorian ambassador to Beijing Carlos Larrea told EFE on Wednesday.
Larrea told EFE that on July 1 the Chinese government informed the embassies that its fleet in the eastern Pacific was going to “self-regulate” between the months of September and November, both included, and temporarily cease fishing for giant squid to facilitate the reproduction of the species.
“We are very satisfied with this progress, it is a door that opens the negotiation of a greater commitment to China and sits with them and not against them,” said the ambassador and added that technical delegations from both countries will virtually begin a bilateral negotiation Thursday to try to extend this moratorium and make it permanent.
Chinese fishing vessels operate outside the 200-mile exclusive economic zone around the Galapagos Islands nature reserve, but migratory species are widely mobile outside the area, “so bilateral agreements must be reached,” Larrea said.
“We are interested in that they move away from the area and stop fishing permanently,” he added and defended the establishment of a ban around the islands on the giant squid so as not to endanger the species.
The Chinese fishing fleet accounts for about 70 percent of the global catch of giant squid.
The moratorium will apply to the area between 5 degrees north latitude and 5 degrees south latitude and between 110 and 95 degrees west longitude, according to the China Newsweek publication.
On July 3, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs announced in a statement a first “voluntary moratorium that aims to conserve fishery resources in the open sea and is subject to no international organization” off the Argentine coast.
This break, between the months of July and September, is limited to the international water quadrant between 32 and 44 degrees south latitude and 48 and 60 degrees west longitude, although the department announced another moratorium “in the open sea in the eastern Pacific Ocean from Sept. 1.”
“During the moratorium, all Chinese fishing vessels in the area, including trawlers and squid fishing boats, must suspend their activities,” added the ministry, which pledged to “strengthen supervision of the fishing vessels during this period.”
The official text also noted that the ministry would establish “a system for collecting data on squid in the open sea” that “will serve to monitor the effects of the moratorium and, with the information gathered, the ministry could evaluate and adjust the moratorium.”
China Newsweek said the areas covered by the moratoriums are “the most important squid grounds” for China, whose squid is consumed entirely in the domestic market.
The about 200 boats that worked in the area surrounding Argentina were dedicated to catching Argentine squid, the most highly-priced in the Chinese market, while the eastern Pacific is dominated by the American red squid.
According to the Chinese Ocean Academy, the country has a fleet of more than 600 squid fishing boats, which caught more than 520,000 tons of squid in 2018.
On Sunday, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement in which he expressed his support “for Ecuador’s efforts to ensure that vessels with the flag of the People’s Republic of China do not participate in illegal, undeclared and unregulated fishing.”
For his part, Ecuadorian Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrin spoke July 26 about the existence of a foreign fishing fleet in international waters near the Galapagos and warned that foreign vessels that entered Ecuador illegally would be seized.