Some call it a floating city, a flotilla of 260 mostly Chinese fishing vessels near the Galapagos archipelago that is stirring diplomatic tension and raising worries about the threat to sharks, manta rays, and other vulnerable species in waters around the UNESCO world heritage site, per the AP. Yet the vast fleet is in international waters, outside a maritime border around the Galapagos and also outside coastal waters off Ecuador, which controls the archipelago. That means the fleet, one of the biggest seen in years off South America's Pacific coast, is likely to fish with minimal monitoring until its holds are full. The Chinese fleet is “very close" to the edge of the exclusive economic zone around the Galapagos, which extends 200 nautical miles from the archipelago, said its governor, Norman Wray.
He said that, because of overfishing in recent years, “what we're seeing is that each time fewer species return to the Galapagos." Luis Villanueva, an officer with the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project, said Thursday that it was possible, though unproven, that long fishing lines from the Chinese vessels could be drifting into the exclusive economic zone. The US National Security Council tweeted that the US stands with Ecuador “against any aggression directed toward their economic and environmental sovereignty.” China maintains it is a “responsible fishing nation" that respects Ecuador's measures to protect the environment and preserve marine resources. Despite the Chinese statement, Ecuador has expressed concern through diplomatic channels, and its navy is on alert for any incursion into Ecuadorian waters.
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