HomeNewsBriefColombia Fails to Tackle Illegal Fishing in Malpelo Reserve
BRIEF

Colombia Fails to Tackle Illegal Fishing in Malpelo Reserve

COLOMBIA / 13 MAY 2019 BY ANGELA OLAYA EN

Colombia's island of Malpelo, home to a vast marine reserve, is suffering the consequences of increasing levels of illegal fishing by domestic and foreign crews, with responses from authorities failing to address the problem so far.

Since 2017, Colombian authorities have been reporting an increase in fishing vessels from Ecuador, China and Panama, off the country’s Pacific coast.

The problem only seems to be growing worse. In late April, neighboring Ecuador reported that 245 ships had been seen in 2019 so far around its own Galápagos National Park and along its maritime border with Malpelo.

SEE ALSO: Fish Bladders Mean Big Business for Chinese and Mexican Smugglers

The Colombia navy, for its part, on April 16 captured 21 Ecuadoreans and six Colombians in six motorboats close to Malpelo.`

Illegal fishing crews often work in partnership with smaller motorboats which allow them to quickly move their catches to safer areas, away from authorities, if the need arises.

China's demand for fresh fish has fuelled the illegal fishing boom around Malpelo, with highly requested species such as hammerhead sharks, tuna, albacore and wreckfish among the most affected.

InSight Crime Analysis

Illegal fishing along Colombia's Pacific Coast is not new. However, the increasingly frequent presence of foreign ships in Malpelo, from Ecuador, Panama and China, shows that the government has been unable to stop them.

The presence of illegal Ecuadorean vessels in Malpelo points to their desire to find new spots outside Ecuadorean borders, where they can act without the potential legal implications of illegal fishing in protected areas such as the Galápagos National Park.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Eco Trafficking

In April, Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno deployed ships and planes to the Galápagos National Park, set up new permanent coast guard presences and increased satellite monitoring over the area. The Chinese ambassador to Ecuador was also summoned to a meeting.

On paper, Colombia has been doing its best to defend Malpelo as well. The size of the maritime natural reserve was tripled in 2017 to 2.7 million hectares by the government of former president Juan Manuel Santos.

However, despite coordinated efforts by the navy, the national park's staff and NGOs, efforts to stop illegal fishing have failed to make a major impact.

The lack of resources to combat illegal fishing has also exposed another area of vulnerability: trade agreements between Colombia and Ecuador.

Hammerhead sharks and other Malpelo species are often sent to China, where they are in demand for use in traditional Chinese medicine or as status symbols, inside Ecuadorean export shipments. It is estimated that in 2017, the illicit business generated more than $23 billion globally.

The situation is further complicated when the illegal fishing industry crosses paths with cocaine trafficking.

Criminal groups are now increasingly making drug deals and exchanges far out at sea, concealed among fishing boats for security, Semana Rural reported.

Ironically, this appears to trigger a faster response from Colombian authorities than illegal fishing. "We only see the authorities whenever the ships are carrying cocaine," said Manuel Bedoya, president of Colombia's Association of Pacific Artisanal Fishermen.

 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 15 MAR 2021

A former chief justice of Colombia’s Supreme Court has been found guilty of corruption in a case that illustrates how…

CARIBBEAN / 9 JUL 2021

Two days on from the nighttime assassination of Haiti President Jovenel Moïse in Port-au-Prince, competing theories have failed to provide…

COCAINE / 2 JUN 2022

The death of Cali Cartel boss Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela in a US prison marks the end of one of Colombia’s…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…