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‘It’s terrifying’: can anyone stop China’s vast armada of fishing boats?

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Ecuador stood up for the Galápagos, but other countries don’t stand a chance against the 17,000-strong distant-water fleet

The recent discovery by the Ecuadorean navy of a vast fishing armada of 340 Chinese vessels just off the biodiverse Galápagos Islands stirred outrage both in Ecuador and overseas.

Under pressure after Ecuador’s strident response, China has given mixed signals that it could begin to reel in its vast international fishing fleet. Its embassy in Ecuador declared a “zero tolerance” policy towards illegal fishing, and this week it announced it was tightening the rules for its enormous flotilla with a series of new regulations.

A ship flying a flag of convenience means the owner has registered the vessel in a country other than their own. The ship flies the ensign or flag of that country, known as the flag state and operates under its laws, typically laxer than the owner’s own.

Related: ‘They just pull up everything!’ Chinese fleet raises fears for Galápagos sea life

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