Chinese fishing flotilla nears Peruvian waters, prompting US-Beijing spat

A huge fishing armada of Chinese vessels has moved south from the Galápagos Islands towards Peru’s territorial waters, dragging the South American country into a diplomatic Twitter row between Washington and Beijing.

Earlier this week, the US embassy in Lima tweeted a warning in Spanish that “more than 300 Chinese-flagged vessels with a record of changing boat names and deactivating GPS trackers” were heading towards Peru.

“Overfishing can cause huge ecological and economic damage. Peru cannot afford such a loss,” it said.

China’s embassy retorted with its own tweet, insisting that its deep-water fishing fleet respected international law and “strictly obeyed Peruvian laws and limited itself to operating in the high seas”.

“We hope the Peruvian public won’t be fooled by false information,” it said.

The online spat was the latest sign of growing tensions over the presence of giant flotilla, which was first detected off the Galápagos archipelago in July, stirring outrage in Ecuador and raising global concern about the practices of the world’s largest deep-water fishing fleet.

Stuck in the middle of a geopolitical row between its two biggest economic partners and allies, Peru’s foreign ministry expressed “unease” at the US embassy tweet’s “inconvenient inaccuracy” because the Chinese fleet was “demonstrably” outside the country’s territorial waters.

In a Twitter thread, the ministry urged the two countries to resolve their differences through dialogue, but also added that Peru would “defend its sovereignty and natural resources, and equally firmly prevent, discourage and eradicate illegal fishing”.

A Peruvian navy patrol boat is policing the limits of the country’s territorial waters, which are 200 nautical miles from the coast, the defence ministry said in a statement. Earlier this week, a reconnaissance flight found Chinese vessels had not breached the limits, it added.

During just one month, the vast fleet logged an astonishing 73,000 hours of fishing, pulling up thousands of tonnes of squid and fish as hundreds of boats scoured the sea on the southern limit of the Galápagos Islands’ territorial waters, according to data analysis by the marine conservation group Oceana.

The Guardian

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