11/06/2020, 12.01
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Four South American nations unite to counter Chinese illegal fishing

by Silvina Premat

Chile, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador will prevent, discourage and combat the illegal presence of foreign ships in their exclusive economic zones. Quito had already protested against Beijing in August. A Peruvian court begins the trial of a Chinese fishing boat captain.

Buenos Aires (AsiaNews) - Four South American nations bordering the Pacific will take joint action to "prevent, discourage and combat" illegal fishing by foreign vessels - mainly flying the Chinese flag - near their exclusive economic zones.

On November 4 the foreign ministers of Chile, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador met issuing a joint declaration, in which they address the concerns expressed in recent months by fishermen's associations, trade unions and environmental organizations in the region.

Without blaming a specific country, South American ministers express their "concern" at "the recurring presence of fleets of foreign-flagged fishing vessels" carrying out unregulated and undeclared fishing activities of highly migratory species and "trans-zonal stocks”. They also communicate the "firm will" to take measures to jointly prevent, discourage and tackle illegal fishing and to optimize the exchange of information "in real time" in this regard.

The initiative taken by the governments in Santiago de Chile, Quito, Bogotà and Lima concretizes the decision taken two months ago by these countries in the context of the Permanent Commission of the South Pacific (CPPS), an intergovernmental body that has been dedicated to the protection of maritime resources for 60 years: design a regional action plan to combat illegal and unregulated fishing.

In late October, the Latin American Alliance for Sustainable Fisheries and Food Security (Alpescas) also called on area governments and the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization to strengthen their fisheries control systems.

Alpescas issued a statement condemning "the repeated threat" posed to local fishing industries by fleets from countries outside the region, which "invade" the fishing areas "without any control" by their respective governments, and abuse the “Freedom of fishing” on the high seas.

In recent months, complaints have been filed in each of the four South American countries about the presence of Asian fishing vessels in areas adjacent to those under their national jurisdiction.

In August, for the next two months, China banned Chinese vessels from fishing at off the Galapagos Islands which is a World Heritage Site. This measure was adopted after the Ecuadorian government filed a formal complaint in Beijing over the behaviour of Chinese fishing vessels. Many of them kept their tracking systems off, making it difficult to locate them.

According to environmental NGO Oceana, the Chinese fishing fleet then headed south through international waters. It has stopped fishing near the exclusive economic zones of Peru and Chile, arousing the reaction of several local organizations.

For years, in Peru, some unions have been denouncing that Chinese or South Korean ships enter the exclusive zone to fish for species such as "pota" (giant squid). A few weeks ago, the Peruvian judicial system announced the first trial of a crew member of a foreign ship accused of "theft" and "illegal trafficking" of marine species. The accused is Zuang Hanbo, captain of the indicted Chinese fishing boat.

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