Ecuador’s armed forces said on Tuesday that dozens of vessels from a predominantly Chinese fishing fleet that is operating near the Galapagos Islands have turned off tracking systems to prevent monitoring of their activities.
Of around 325 ships still fishing in the waters near the ecologically sensitive Galapagos, 149 have at some point in recent months cut off communications, Navy Commander, Rear Admiral Darwin Jarrin told reporters.
Some had also changed the vessels’ names to avoid supervision, he said.
“In this period, 149 ships have turned off their satellite systems … we know the name of the ships,” Jarrin said during a press conference. He declined to identify the vessels.
The complaint comes as the South American nation is seeking to prevent unsustainable fishing off its coast while also avoiding a confrontation with China, its largest financier and a major market for its shrimp export business.
A representative of the Chinese embassy declined to comment.