Marine resources in the eastern Pacific and southwest Atlantic, as well as the fishing industry in Latin American nations bordering either ocean, continue to be threatened by illegal and excessive fishing, which is primarily done by Chinese fleets. Year-round, Chinese fishing boats can be observed in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Peru. The majority of squid boats travel as far south as the Atlantic through the Antarctic Ocean, beyond Chile and up to Argentina’s coastal borders. The “squid route” is the name given to this passage.
China has actively pursued giant squid (Dosidicus gigas) in the Pacific. According to the satellite tracking app Global Fishing Watch, 615 vessels did so in 2021, 584 of which were Chinese. According to Alfonso Miranda, president of the CALAMASUR committee, which is made up of business people and fishermen from Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru, said in 2022, 631 Chinese-flagged vessels have entered the Pacific waters of Ecuador and Peru.
Miranda claims that Peruvian fishermen have informed him of Chinese ships entering Peru’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). He calculates the impact on the country’s economy: if Peruvian squid production reaches 500,000 tonnes, with revenues of $860 million annually, the loss from 50,000 tonnes taken by the foreign fleet amounts to 85 million dollars annually. The amount multiplies when account for the illegal fishing conducted by China all around South America.
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Deterrence to China
Several nations in Latin America are taking action to safeguard marine life. Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Colombia issued a joint statement in November 2020 committing to combat IUU fishing. The agreement is the first of its kind in Latin America and is seen as a significant step forward in the fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. IUU fishing represents a significant threat to the region’s fisheries, as it depletes fish stocks and impacts the livelihoods of local fishermen.
The agreement includes measures such as increased monitoring of fishing vessels, increased penalties for illegal fishing, and increased information sharing between countries. The agreement also seeks to strengthen regional collaboration and establish a regional monitoring system. In addition to the agreement between the five Latin American countries, the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor was established by Ecuador, Chile, Costa Rica, and Panama in 2021 prohibiting industrial fishing fleets in the approximately 490,000 square kilometres of waters bordering Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands, one of the planet’s most ecologically diverse regions.
The Latin American fishing industry’s commitment to protect its fisheries from Chinese exploitation is commendable, and the international community should support their efforts. By taking steps to tackle IUU fishing, the region can ensure the sustainability of their fisheries and the livelihoods of their fishermen. However, it is important to note that this is only the first step in the fight against IUU fishing, and more needs to be done to ensure a long-term solution.
In conclusion, the recent agreement between five Latin American countries to protect their fishing industry from Chinese exploitation is a positive step forward. The region is also taking steps to strengthen monitoring and enforcement, as well as looking to the international community for support. As the world’s fisheries face numerous threats, it is essential that we continue to work together to ensure a sustainable and secure future for our oceans and the people who depend on them.
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