Ecuador Busts 4 Peruvian Boats for Illegal Fishing

Earlier this month, Ecuadorian environmental officials intercepted four Peruvian vessels caught illegally fishing three miles outside the Santa Clara Island marine protected area, located just off the mainland coast. (Photo: Isla Santa Clara (Isla de los Muertos) via Panoramio)

Declared a formal reserve in 1999, Santa Clara Island is the largest refuge for seabirds in continental Ecuador, home to thousands of pelicans, blue-footed boobies, frigatebirds and an array of marine life.

During a regular patrol, Ecuadorian marine enforcement officials spotted the four Peruvian vessels, which were engaged in long-line fishing. Every year, this unsustainable fishing practice kills hundreds of thousands of endangered sharks, mantas, sea turtles and seabirds — all victims of bycatch. When the vessels were unable to produce a valid fishing permit, officials confiscated their catch — including sea bass and chub mackerel, both important exports for Ecuador. The crew likely will face additional fines.

WildAid, Conservation International and other partners have helped to improve marine enforcement at Santa Clara Island, with the implementation of regular patrols and training for its park rangers in 2015. To increase park rangers’ ability to spot illegal activities, we will install real-time surveillance equipment (a long-range HD camera and AIS software) later this year.

Illegal catch on a Peruvian vessel

Since 2014, WildAid has been working on a three-year project in Ecuador to reduce illegal and unsustainable fishing. Our work in the six priority marine protected areas of Machalilla, Santa Clara, Pacoche, Santa Elena, El Morro and Galera includes a comprehensive marine protection plan for each site, regular patrols, training for rangers and community outreach. In Machalilla, we installed surveillance equipment and worked with small-scale fishers to encourage sustainable fishing practices. In Pacoche, we helped park rangers patrol their beaches to protect Olive Ridley sea turtle nests.

The Ecuadorian Navy, Undersecretary for Fisheries and Undersecretary for Coastal and Marine Management conducted this joint mission with support from Conservation International and WildAid.