Illegal Fishing in Latin American Marine Sanctuaries

Destruction of the illegal cargo of the Fu Yuan Yu Leng. Galapagos National Park - Photo Mongabay
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According to a report by the conservation and environmental sciences magazine Mongabay in partnership with Cuestion Pública de Colombia, El Universo de Ecuador and Ciper de Chile analyzed, with the advice of experts in satellite monitoring and scientists, the movement of vessels, for a period of five years, within four marine protected areas and concluded that: Latin America’s marine sanctuaries are threatened by illegal fishing. The team “After drug and arms trafficking, illegal fishing is the third most lucrative illegal activity in the world.

The article highlights that protected areas do not have sufficient surveillance or budget to prevent the looting of their marine biodiversity and in some cases, the management plans that define the monitoring strategy have not even been generated. In other words, they are “paper parks”, which makes them more vulnerable to fishing. Finally. The investigation detects illegal fishing activities in marine protected areas with boats that have illegal fishing records.

Currently states use GPS global positioning devices to track the movements of vessels that connect with orbiting satellites. Through this reading you can see the position, speed and heading of the ship. Thanks to these technologies, activity patterns of 50 to 70% of industrial fishing activity can be recognized. Likewise, there are web platforms such as Global Fishing Watch that include algorithms for recognizing the behavior of fishing vessels to correctly identify their activity. In response to this, the navies or authorities make their efforts to protect and establish sovereignty over these marine sanctuaries.

Mexico

Seventeen vessels with the Mexican flag and one from the United States were observed carrying out suspicious activities in the Revillagigedo National Park, where sharks and manta rays live in danger of extinction. Only three vessels were reported for illegal fishing activities.

Colombia

It was possible to observe ships of the Panamanian flag and the Colombian Seatech fleet – known as the Van Camps Tuna brand – operating in the Yuruparí National Integrated Management District that borders the Malpelo marine sanctuary. Vessels present in this area have a history of finning, a shark fishing practice where the body of the animal is discarded after cutting its fins.

An important piece of information published by the report is that: The company Seatech (Atún Van Camps) benefited from the tax reform after the company and its executives donated 480 million to Uribismo in 2018.

Ecuador

A Chinese fleet made up of 260 boats with a history of illegal fishing would have reached the limits of the exclusive economic zone of the Galapagos to fish for potabilities and giant squid. This activity alerted scientists and government officials to mobilize fishing authorities and armed forces for the protection of marine biodiversity. President Lenin Moreno himself ordered the creation of a committee to design a protection strategy for the Galapagos Islands.

Chile

Authorities were alerted by the report of fleets of Chinese ships crossing the Nazca Descenturadas Marine Park, the largest in Latin America. Of this fleet, some vessels with antecedents have sailed in or around the Galapagos and Nazca Desventuradas in the last five years. The Authorities identified the companies to which the vessels belong. They found that most of them are domiciled in the city of Zhoushan, East China Sea and the nerve center of the fishing industry in that country.

Unfortunately, illegal fishing affects the biodiversity of our oceans, the economies of coastal communities that live off fishing, and the world’s food security by depleting resources that are not renewed at the rate they are exploited.

According to researchers, the biggest problem is identifying illegal fishing. In a forest, cutting down trees is assimilable with the naked eye, on the contrary, under the sea it is impossible. Authorities claim that the vessels disable their global positioning systems to commit the illegal acts. They also state that, if you keep your device on, “the legislation and laws in many countries are a couple of steps behind technology and that type of evidence is still not accepted in legal cases. So, you have to do the interception and that kind of operations much more expensive ”, explains the scientist for the Mongabay report. However, governments have simply chosen to dissuade foreign ships from leaving national waters rather than apprehending them and prosecuting them by having very outdated evidence systems. “It is difficult to prove the existence of a crime and the fines or other sanctions are very weak, and therefore it is not worth making so much effort for a sanction that is usually insignificant.”

Marine protected areas

The oceans are the largest source of oxygen that we breathe, they absorb the carbon emissions that generate global warming, regulate the climate and feed the world’s population. 66% of the oceans are deteriorated, 31% of fish stocks are overexploited and in 40 years 49% of marine species have disappeared (UNEP). This situation is getting worse as a result of pollution, the increase in the temperature of the water caused by global warming and the acidification of the ocean because it is absorbing carbon dioxide in excess.

Protected areas are essential to restore fish populations and fishing activity as they are hotbeds of biodiversity. By 2020, the countries committed to protect at least 10% of their maritime territory. Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and Chile have met the goal on paper, going from 1.43% in 2000 to 23.6% in 2020 according to the United Nations Statistics Division.

According to researchers, the biggest problem is identifying illegal fishing. In a forest, cutting down trees is assimilable with the naked eye, on the contrary, under the sea it is impossible. Authorities claim that the vessels disable their global positioning systems to commit the illegal acts. They also state that, if you keep your device on, “the legislation and laws in many countries are a couple of steps behind technology and that type of evidence is still not accepted in legal cases. So, you have to do the interception and that kind of operations much more expensive ”, explains the scientist for the Mongabay report. However, governments have simply chosen to dissuade foreign ships from leaving national waters rather than apprehending them and prosecuting them by having very outdated evidence systems. “It is difficult to prove the existence of a crime and the fines or other sanctions are very weak, and therefore it is not worth making so much effort for a sanction that is usually insignificant.”

% and KM2 of maritime protected territory in Latin America - UN
% and KM2 of maritime protected territory in Latin America – UN

On paper the parks are protected, however, this is only part of the commitment made. To be effective in protecting marine areas, endorsed regulation and tough governance is needed. This includes a management plan to protect the resources that exist in the area and that in the long run influences human behavior by reducing the impact on these marine ecosystems. Marine protected areas are defended with fishing monitoring mechanisms and legal, judicial and criminal processes for offenders.

“In Chile, 5 of the 28 marine areas with some category of protection have a management plan. In Colombia, 13 out of 18; in Ecuador, 8 out of 11 and in Mexico, of the 37 areas that have marine protected surface; only one has no management program. ” mention the MongaBay report.

 

 

Source Mongabay

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