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Ecuador on alert after armada of Chinese fishing boats seen off Galapagos Island

Ecuador on alert after armada of Chinese fishing boats seen off Galapagos Island

As the fleet’s arrival suggests that China has a food supply problem, Ecuador finds itself deep in debt to the Asian giant without any of the prosperity that was promised.

In addition to Hong Kong and the South China seas, the coast of South America is now being impacted by Chinese interests.

Ecuador has expressed concern through diplomatic channels and its navy is on alert for any incursion into Ecuadorian waters after a fleet of 260 Chinese fishing ships anchored off of the environmentally-sensitive Galapagos Islands.

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.

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 (370 kilometers) 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 fleet is a huge logistical undertaking, with storage and supply vessels that allow it to stay at sea for long periods.

The fleet has drawn the attention of the United States, whose relationship with China is fraught on many fronts. The U.S. National Security Council tweeted that the U.S. stands with Ecuador “against any aggression directed toward their economic and environmental sovereignty.”

The Ecuadorans have had issues with over-fishing Chinese before.

The Ecuadorian navy has been monitoring the fishing fleet since it was spotted last week, according to the country’s defence minister, Oswaldo Jarrín. “We are on alert, [conducting] surveillance, patrolling to avoid an incident such as what happened in 2017,” he said.

The 2017 incident he referred to was the capture by the Ecuadorean navy within the Galápagos marine reserve of a Chinese vessel. The Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999, part of an even larger fleet than the current one, was found to be carrying 300 tonnes of marine wildlife, mostly sharks.

“We were appalled to discover that a massive Chinese industrial fishing fleet is currently off the Galápagos Islands,” said John Hourston, a spokesman for the Blue Planet Society, a NGO which campaigns against overfishing.

This action tends to confirm the premise that the combination of African Swine Fever, COVID-19, and flooding have hit the Chinese food supply hard.

China has a food problem. To a nation whose leaders are old enough to have been directly impacted by The Great Famine, the seriousness of food shortages cannot be overestimated. China’s burgeoning population, growing industrial economy, and expanding culture of consumerism are all contributing to a steady rise in demand for agricultural products.

But agricultural production, lest anyone forget, is subject to the biblical forces of floods, fire, pestilence, and a host of other variables, some of which are right now upsetting China’s delicate food stability. The world’s most populous nation will certainly not run out of food, but prices are rising and hints of tightening supplies are beginning to appear. Things may get worse before they get better.

China’s fiscal reach into Ecuador has been extensive, and there are now signs that the South American nation’s communities are being torn apart by Chinese demands. Several communities have been sacrificed to meet the Chinese demands to create mining operations.

Ecuador is not traditionally a mining country, but the industry was given a more prominent role during the Correa administration. His government, which was marked by strained relations with the United States, looked into diversifying the economy from its dependency on oil exports by attracting external investment to tap into the country’s rich mineral reserves.

Although Mirador is considered the country’s most significant mining project, several concessions for major projects have been granted in recent years, many of them to Chinese companies.

At some 16 million people, Ecuador’s entire population is smaller than that of Beijing – but despite its size, the country isn’t just attractive to investors from the Middle Kingdom, it has rung up a huge debt with China. Out of 15 countries in Latin America that have received Chinese funding, Ecuador is among the top three borrowers, with a total of 15 loans estimated at US$18.4 billion.

It turns out the glorious prosperity the Chinese promised by complying with their demands has not materialized.


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Better pray for a major storm

2smartforlibs | August 2, 2020 at 12:21 pm

The funny thing about this. When they are never challenged they get more bold.

This is a threat but until this bully of a country is punched in the nose they will not stop or slow their attempt to take over wherever they can.

This the country that Diane Finestein praises and Biden wants to emulate.

China didn’t deliver the prosperity? Pardon me while I find my “shocked face”.

I guess the Ecuadorians can take solace in the fact that Chinese don’t eat Guinea Pigs.

This is bad.

SpaceInvader | August 2, 2020 at 2:01 pm

When someone offers to loan you money. They are not doing you a favor. They are offering you slavery and poverty.

Huh. Turns out you can’t borrow your way into long-term prosperity — and especially not by borrowing from a known loan shark.

Who knew?

ThePrimordialOrderedPair | August 2, 2020 at 2:20 pm

I miss the Monroe Doctrine … Heck, I miss owning the Panama Canal.

The Chinese aren’t satisfied with exporting junk to America, they have to send Junks to the Americas, too. I would step up some more aggressive patrolling of the South China Sea.

Talk about a target rich environment…!

Well, the Chilean fish populations are about to plummet.


Use them.

The Chinese have taken the worst aspects of capitalism and combined them with the inherent flaws of communism to create a hideous monster that succeeds commercially while failing every moral measure.

At the same time Ecuador is billed as one of the best retirement destinations in the world for expats

BierceAmbrose | August 2, 2020 at 3:59 pm

So, I see a bunch of Chinese boats sailing around in Chinese territorial waters.

What’s the problem, again?

Just like the “good old days” when mercantilism allowed imperialists to colonize the rest of the world. The new world order sure seems like a return to the 16th century to me.

Of course back then, you were allowed to burn wood to heat and cook, light the night with whale oil or kerosene lamps or just plain candles using bees wax. Not allowed today. Gaia and Pope Frankie don’t approve. Back to the dark ages instead.

I would like to comment on how stupid Ecuador was to become dependant on China, but as an American, I should be quiet about that.

    GatorGuy in reply to JasonL. | August 2, 2020 at 10:50 pm

    I once saw a painting on sale in a department store that caught my eye. It showed a simple theme: a more prominent, significant figure accepting what was more likely than courteous, probably the requisite bow of a servant, already known or otherwise to the service-receiving other.

    Their roles weren’t expressly identified in any way, just easily and sensibly inferred. The two were clearly oriental, and their dress was notably older and traditional, not modern.

    The one master and the other mastered — that seemed to get the gist of the moment’s story correct: simple, representative, common. It was a powerful, easy-to-grasp portrayal of something real and sure in our world, for all time.

    So I ask, what’s new in the world?

The world’s most populous nation will certainly not run out of food

Strange statement. It often does. The well-known willingness of the Chinese to eat absolutely anything is purely Darwinian. A vast chunk of agriculture in China is dependent on two huge river systems, the Wang Ho (now spelt Huang He, which doesn’t improve anything) and the Yang Tze. In a dry year, both drop to levels inadequate to grow food for a billion-plus people, and roadkill starts to look pretty good. In a year with lots of rainfall, both rivers flood, wiping out millions of acres of farms, and so road kill still looks pretty good. Mao’s Lysenkoesque insistence that Marxist-Leninist doctrine could tame the waters just made a bad situation worse, and his reign is remembered for the Great Dying, an era of starvation notable even by China’s historical standards.

I have to admit to having mixed feelings about this report. Like JasonL my first thought was if you get in bed with the CHICOMs you deserve what you’re inevitably going to get. Which is of course they’ll treat you like their bought and paid for bitch.

So it’s hard for me to have much sympathy for Ecuador. On top of that I was stationed for a while in Cenhtral America conducting counter-narcotic operations. I’m not a the U.S. military getting involved.

We got a lot of bad intel from the El Paso Intel Center (EPIC) which was (and for all I know still is; I wasn’t all that interested then and I’m even less so now) the joint and combined intel center dedicated to combating the drug trade.

Here’s how inept they were. They told us we needed to detect and track drug smugglers (needed, as in we had to do it) based on aircraft type and flight pattern. They’d fly small general aviation type aircraft like Cessna, Beechcraft, whatever, generally at night, and they’d make short hops, landing frequently at rough jungle airstrips. Naturally we weren’t allowed to shoot them, just get their tail numbers and report those to law enforcement.

You know who else flies the exact same aircraft and the exact same flight pattern? Missionaries, flying from village to village tending their flock. The “professionals” at EPIC had no clue that there even was such a thing as a missionary let alone by necessity they were also pilots.

It’s not easy for a jet fighter to intercept these things. Maximum cruising speed for a typical single piston-engine equipped light aircraft is 120-160 or so knots airspeed. Usually, though, for the sake of fuel efficiency they don’t cruise at their maximum speed. Often they’re doing less than 100ktas.

Landing speed for an F16 is 140ktas. So we had aviators putting their aircraft into the dirtiest possible configuration, which made the plane barely controllable if you want to call about to turn into a brick and fall out of the sky in any sense controllable, at practically treetop level, trying to read the the tail number with night vision goggles. And most of the time these guys weren’t even smuggling drugs.

It was all a stupid waste of time. But when Congress dangles a thick wad of cash in front of a bunch of out-of-touch inside the beltway flag and general officers they take leave of whatever sense they have left and grab it. Without thinking of whether or not they’re going to get someone killed for no good reason.

So this was going the long way around the barn to get to how I don’t care if Ecuador is getting screwed in this deal. Back in my day Ecuadorian seaports (the biggest and most important being Guayaquil, but also Machala which too is located on the Gulf of Guayaquir as well as Esmeraldas on the country’s Northwest coast) were notorious as major drug trafficking hubs. One of the smugglers’ go-to techniques was to use merchant ships as mules. They’d employ divers to swim out to merchant vessels, climb up into the rudder housing, and plant the drug consignment there.

What made this so effective is that no member of the ship’s crew had to even know they were transporting drugs. The rudder housing isn’t accessible from within the ship; only divers can get up in there. The government definitely knew what was going on. The drug smugglers had to know the ship’s schedule so they could send out divers to retrieve the drugs at one of their follow-on destinations. We knew the government was providing this information to the drug smugglers but we didn’t know how high the corruption went up in the government hierarchy. It had to go pretty high as the government of Ecuador wasn’t being any help in the matter; they were actively interfering with us.

Maybe they’ve cleaned up their act. My information is nearly 30 years old. I still have a negative impression of Ecuador though. So I can’t pretend to feel sorry if someone is poaching in their marine reserves.

On the other hand, the oceans’ fish stocks belong to all nations. So China isn’t just stealing from Ecuador but from us as well. Plus it wouldn’t break my heart if China starved as I have had some experience with those bastards and I don’t like them either. They bully everyone whenever they think they can get away with it and they are openly threatening our national security interests as well.

So basically they deserve each other. I hope the Chinese continue screwing Ecuador, and I also hope despite all that the Chinese still starve.

“It turns out the glorious prosperity the Chinese promised by complying with their demands has not materialized.”

You say the ChiComs were lying about economics? Don’t ask about the 50-60 million people Mao killed after his revolution.