China punishes 27 officials after deadly ultramarathon kills 21 participants

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/11/china-punishes-27-officials-after-deadly-ultramarathon.html

PUBLISHED FRI, JUN 11 20218:37 AM EDTUPDATED 4 HOURS AGO

Reuters

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  • China has punished 27 government officials deemed responsible for last month’s ultramarathon deaths, the state-run People’s Daily said.
  • Twenty-one people died of hypothermia when extremely cold weather suddenly descended on a government-organized 100 km marathon on May 22 in the rugged northwestern province of Gansu.
Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the opening ceremony of the fifth annual meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank via video link, in Beijing, capital of China, July 28, 2020.

Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the opening ceremony of the fifth annual meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank via video link, in Beijing, capital of China, July 28, 2020.Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

China has punished 27 government officials deemed responsible for last month’s ultramarathon deaths, the state-run People’s Daily said on Friday, one of the world’s deadliest sporting tragedies in recent history.

Twenty-one people died of hypothermia when extremely cold weather suddenly descended on a government-organized 100 km marathon on May 22 in the rugged northwestern province of Gansu.

The head of Jingtai county, where the race was held, was dismissed from her post, the People’s Daily reported, citing a news briefing by investigators.

Other organizers held accountable included the mayor and the Communist Party chief of the city of Baiyin, to which the jurisdiction of Jingtai belongs.

Other punishments imposed on officials included major demerit ratings and disciplinary warnings.WATCH NOWVIDEO06:54Asia’s growing addiction to the ultramarathon

Li Zuobi, the Jingtai county party chief, fell from his apartment building on June 9 and died, state media reported, adding that the police have ruled out homicide while Li’s death was still being investigated.

It was not clear whether or not Li’s death was linked to the ultramarathon.

The investigators said the tragedy was a public safety incident brought about by extreme weather including high winds, heavy rain and plunging temperatures, as well as unprofessional organization and operation.

China’s sport administration said last week it was suspending all high-risk sports events that lack a supervisory body, established rules and clear safety standards.

The activities halted include mountain and desert trail sports, wingsuit flying and ultra-long distance running.

New Study: Bats and Pangolins Weren’t Sold In Wuhan’s Wet Markets, But Other Mammals Were

https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/new-study-bats-and-pangolins-werent-sold-in-wuhans-wet-markets-but-other-mammals-were/

By JIM GERAGHTY

June 10, 2021 12:58 PM

Customers select seafood at a wet market in Dandong, Liaoning Province, China, in 2017. (Philip Wen/Reuters)

Speaking of wet markets, a new research paper offers the results of an exhaustive review of the animals sold in the wet markets in Wuhan before the outbreak of COVID-19. Perhaps most surprisingly, the review of more than 36,000 animals of 38 species in 17 wet market shops concludes that pangolins and bats were not sold in the wet markets of the city. But the study cannot rule out that some other species of animal sold in the city’s wet markets was the source of the virus.

From May 2017 to November 2019 — long before anyone had heard of COVID-19 — Xaio Xaio, of the Lab Animal Research Center at the Hubei University of Chinese Medicine in Wuhan, conducted monthly surveys of all 17 wet market shops in the city selling live wild animals for food and pets. Xaio was attempting to trace a tick-borne virus, SFTS — severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome. (The paper calls Xaio’s detailed census of the animals sold in the markets “serendipitous.”)https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.464.0_en.html#goog_1076108420https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.464.0_en.html#goog_1765360566https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.464.0_en.html#goog_1554775109

The investigation of the animals sold sounds pretty thorough:

X.X. was granted unique and complete access to trading practices. On each visit, vendors were asked what species they had sold over the preceding month and in what numbers, along with the prices and origin of these goods (wild caught or captive bred/ farmed). Additionally, to substantiate interview data, the number of individuals available for sale at the time of each visit was noted, and animals were checked for gunshot wounds (from homemade firearms—gun ownership is strictly regulated in China) or leg-hold (snap) trap injuries, indicative of wild capture.

Across all 17 shops, vendors reported total sales of 36,295 individuals, belonging to 38 terrestrial wild animal species, averaging 1170.81 individuals per month Including species sold by weight inflated this total to 47,381 individuals. Notably, no pangolin or bat species were among these animals for sale.

But this information doesn’t completely slam the door on the wet market theory, because bats and pangolins are not the only species that could have carried the virus.

Almost all animals were sold alive, caged, stacked and in poor condition. Most stores offered butchering services, done on site, with considerable implications for food hygiene and animal welfare. Approximately 30 percent of individuals from 6 mammal species inspected had suffered wounds from gunshots or traps, implying illegal wild harvesting. Thirteen of these 17 stores clearly posted the necessary permits from Wuhan Forestry Bureau allowing them to sell legitimate wild animal species (e.g., Siamese Crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis), Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus), Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) and Amur hedgehog (Erinaceus amurensis)) for food; four shops had no such permit. Species names were given in Chinese only, with no clear taxonomic binomial designation. None of the 17 shops posted an origin certificate or quarantine certificate, so all wildlife trade was fundamentally illegal. Notably, vendors freely disclosed a variety of protected species on sale illegally in their shops, therefore they would not benefit from specifically concealing pangolin trade or the trade in any particular species, and so we are confident this list is complete.

So which other animals have been found with SARS-CoV-2? This March, Nature listed  “cats and dogs, to pumas, gorillas and snow leopards in zoos, and farmed mink” as animals that have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 after encountering an infected human being.  Another study noted, “sporadic SARS-CoV-2 virus cases have been recorded in kept ferrets in Slovenia and in Spain.”

The new study reports that on average, each month the city’s wet markets collectively sold 38 racoon dogs, and ten minks. The original SARS virus was found in civet cat cages, and the markets sold about eleven masked palm civets per month. And if SARS-CoV-2 is contagious in a lot of varieties of small mammals… the markets sold on average of 332 amur hedgehogs, 168 Chinese hares, 43 Chinese bamboo rats, 30 red foxes, and a wide variety of others each month. That’s a long list of suspects.

And yet, so far, testing has not yet found any wild animals or livestock in China with SARS-CoV-2.

NOW WATCH: ‘Researcher Tied to Wuhan Lab Thanked Fauci for Dismissing Lab-Leak Theory’

Wandering elephants are touching hearts in China. Humans may be reason they left home.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/china/wandering-elephants-are-touching-hearts-china-humans-may-be-reason-n1270450

“It almost felt as if they had a holy aura around them,” said Adam Chang, who was hired to deliver corn and pineapples to the elephants.00:49 /02:43TAP TO UNMUTE

June 11, 2021, 7:20 AM PDTBy Robbie Hu and Zeerak Khurram

herd of elephants traipsing through southwest China has captured the imagination of millions.

Monitored by hundreds of police officers assisted by drones, the massive animals reached Kunming in southern Yunnan province earlier this week after traveling some 300 miles from their native nature reserve, state-owned media reported.

Adam Chang was hired to deliver corn and pineapples to the elephants, which on average stand 11 feet tall and weigh 11,000 lbs.

He said what he saw was amazing.

“I saw them picking apart the corn with their trunks,” he told NBC News over the messaging and social media app WeChat.

“They are just so much more lively than those I saw in the zoo. It almost felt as if they had a holy aura around them,” he said.

Image: A migrating herd of elephants roam through a neighborhood near the Shuanghe Township, Jinning District of Kunming city in southwestern China's Yunnan Province
A migrating herd of elephants roam through a neighborhood near the Shuanghe Township, in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province, last week. Yunnan Forest Fire Brigade / AP

While news of their migration has spread across China and gone viral online, with many expressing wonder and fascination, experts warned that this rare journey could indicate the inevitable and damaging consequences of human encroachment on the elephants’ natural habitat.

The herd reached Kunming on June 2, despite efforts from police to lure them back home. The animals took their time crossing what would have been busy thoroughfares, eating and stumbling into irrigation ditches before going to sleep in woods nearby.

After trending on social media in late May, many netizens were awestruck, while some complained about the destruction left in their wake.

Jason Cao, owner of a Yunnan mining company contracted by the government to deliver their feed, said he didn’t think the damage they caused was serious.

“Elephants are holy animals that can bring fortune and peace in Chinese culture, so we are very happy the elephants came,” he said.

Elephant herd pauses to nap during mysterious trek

JUNE 10, 202101:52

Both Chang and Cao declined to offer their given first names because they had not been given permission to speak to the media by local officials and feared retribution. Instead they asked to be identified with their “American” names.

The herd first came to the attention of outsiders in March 2020 when they left their home in the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve in southwest Yunnan at the border with Myanmar and Laos. A calf was born in November and two elephants split off from the rest in April 2021, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

Officials and experts say they don’t know why the herd is migrating.

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According to Tammie Matson, zoologist and research fellow at the University of Rwanda and director of Matson and Ridley Safaris, elephants can travel long distances if there isn’t enough habitat to meet their needs.

“Some may be driven to move away to get access to these resources to avoid competition,” she said.

Image: A migrating herd of elephants roam through a neighborhood near the Shuanghe Township, Jinning District of Kunming city in southwestern China's Yunnan Province,
Experts have warned that this rare journey could indicate the inevitable and damaging consequences of human encroachment on the elephants’ natural habitat.Yunnan Forest Fire Brigade / AP

Xinhua has reported that the Asian elephant population in Yunnan has ballooned from 180 in the 1980s to 300 in 2021. So it is possible that as numbers grew, a subgroup began searching for new habitat, got lost and just kept traveling, according to Nilanga Jayasinghe, manager of the wildlife conservation team at WWF, an international nongovernmental organization that specializes in wildlife preservation.

Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics

Netizens have plenty of theories as to why the elephants are migrating, blaming global warming and deforestation.

Asian elephants inhabit forests and grassland, so deforestation rates in Xishuangbanna, which reached an annual average of 4.1 square miles in 2010, may have contributed to the herd’s migration.

Still, long-distance treks are not unknown for the animals, according to Raman Sukumar, professor of ecology at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, India, with similar migrations having happened in India and Sri Lanka.

These trips can have a negative impact on a herd’s health, he warned.

Image: Wild Asian elephants lie on the ground and rest in Jinning district of Kunming
Wild Asian elephants lie on the ground and rest in Jinning district of Kunming, Yunnan province, China on June 7, 2021. A herd of 15 wild elephants has trekked hundreds of kilometers after leaving their forest habitat in Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, according to local media.China Daily / via Reuters

“I would expect that the stress levels in the elephants would start going up because the elephants are in a totally different kind of terrain,” he said. “It is very densely populated … It’s not so easy for them to navigate through a city.”

For Hannah Mumby, assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Biological Sciences, it is important to address the root cause of their departure, otherwise this behavior could be repeated.

The China Central Television News Agency has captured signs of a second herd of elephants attempting to migrate across a river in Xishuangbanna.

In the meantime, those who have seen the elephants say the experience is more than memorable.

“Before this encounter I just felt curious about animals, now I think I would volunteer in animal rights groups to preserve those giant creatures,” Chang said.

New China three-child policy sparks tales of ‘trauma’

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-57312741

Published10 hours agoShare

A woman walks with a baby on a street in Shanghai, China, 31 May 2021.
image captionMany people on Chinese social media have criticised the policy as too little, too late

China’s decision to allow couples to have up to three children continued to dominate discussion online as people debated if it had come too late.

The announcement came as census data showed a steep decline in birth rates.

Many – mostly millennials – wondered how the announcement sat with plans to delay retirement ages in the country which were also announced on Monday.

Others called for compensation for the trauma their families suffered for wanting more children in the past.

Under China’s strict one-child policy which was introduced in 1979, families caught flouting the rules faced fines, loss of employment and sometimes forced abortions.

Campaigners say it also led to issues like female infanticide, and the under-reporting of female births.https://buy.tinypass.com/checkout/template/cacheableShow?aid=tYOkq7qlAI&templateId=OTBYI8Q89QWC&templateVariantId=OTV0YFYSXVQWV&offerId=fakeOfferId&experienceId=EXAWX60BX4NU&iframeId=offer_0e763acc7b457c03340a-0&displayMode=inline&widget=template

A number of descriptions of what it was like for families during that time have now emerged online in response to the new policy.

‘Everyone has become data’

One person on China’s microblogging service Weibo claimed his mother was forced to get an IUD after giving birth to him as he was a second child, adding that to this day she still gets infections from it.

“The policy is just a cold notice – it doesn’t look at the kind of distress it has caused people. Everyone has become reduced to data, rather than people who deserve to be respected and seen,” he wrote on Weibo under the pseudonym Chillsyrup.

Many also recalled the story of Feng Jiamei who was made to undergo a forced abortion in the seventh month of her pregnancy as she could not pay the fine for having a second child.

City officials apologised after photos showing Ms Feng and her foetus shocked internet users.

Another person known as Jia Shuai wrote that as an illegal child growing up in the countryside, he remembered having to jump into ponds to hide from family planning officials.

“If you could not pay the fines, some officials would clear your house and take your animals away. What a bizarre memory,” he wrote.

Yet another user claimed her younger sister was still alive only because a compassionate doctor had let their mother escape from the hospital, after she was called in to have an abortion while eight months pregnant.

Meanwhile celebrated filmmaker Zhang Yimou and his wife – who were fined a hefty $1.2m (£842,850) in 2014 for violating the country’s one-child policy – also commented on the new announcement.

Chinese director Zhang Yimou
image captionChinese film-maker Zhang Yimou, who has three children, was fined $1.2m in 2014 for violating the country’s one-child policy

“Finished the task ahead of time,” the couple wrote on Weibo, along with the flexing arm emoji.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International said the policy, like its predecessors, was still a violation of sexual and reproductive rights.

“Governments have no business regulating how many children people have. Rather than ‘optimising’ its birth policy, China should instead respect people’s life choices and end any invasive and punitive controls over people’s family planning decisions,” said the group’s China team head, Joshua Rosenzweig.

‘The awkward generation’

But much of the criticism on the new policy came from Chinese millennials, who complained they were the “awkward” generation caught in the middle.

“For those born after the 1980s and 1990s – we can’t catch a break. The government is pressuring us to have more babies, but at the same time, they want us to keep working for longer. What kind of life is this?” one person asked.

For more than four decades, China’s retirement age has remained unchanged at 60 for men and 55 for women. But on Monday China said it would phase in delays in retirement ages, though it did not provide details.

“I don’t even want one child, let alone three,” another commented.

Until more details are announced, many on social media are sceptical that the policy change will actually do much to boost birth rates.

When China scrapped its decades-old one-child policy in 2016 to replace it with a two-child limit, it failed to lead to a sustained upsurge in births.

“If relaxing the birth policy was effective, the current two-child policy should have proven to be effective too,” Hao Zhou, a senior economist at Commerzbank, told the Reuters news agency on Monday.https://emp.bbc.com/emp/SMPj/2.43.0/iframe.htmlmedia captionParents and children on the streets of Beijing disagreed on whether the new policy was a good idea

Bad news for the Earth: China’s new three-child policy sends baby and maternity stocks soaring

https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/31/investing/china-stocks-three-child-rule/index.html

(CNN Business)China’s decision to allow families to have three children could produce a windfall for makers of strollers, car seats and baby formula. At least, that’s what investors think.Stocks tied to baby products and maternity services soared in mainland China and Hong Kong on Monday after the Chinese government announced a major change to its family planning policy as the country tries to avert a demographic crisis.Shares of Goodbaby, which makes children’s products, jumped 31% in Hong Kong. Suzhou Basecare Medical Co., which offers genetic testing for couples looking to undergo IVF, rose 15%.

China's economy needs workers but a three-child policy may not fix the problem

China’s economy needs workers but a three-child policy may not fix the problemJinxin Fertility Group, which provides assisted reproductive services, gained nearly 18%, while Aidigong Maternal & Child Health, which offers maternity health services, increased 22%.

Beingmate, a major infant formula manufacturer, climbed 8% in Shenzhen. Goldlok Holdings, which makes electric trains and dolls, leaped 10%. Clothing maker Lancy was up 7%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (HSI) inched up 0.1% on Monday, while the Shenzhen Composite rose 1.1%.

We read all day so you don’t have to.Get our nightly newsletter for all the top business stories you need to know.Sign Me UpBy subscribing you agree to ourprivacy policy.The Chinese Communist Party’s top leadership made the decision to permit couples to have up to three children at a meeting Monday, though state media reports did not say when the policy change would be implemented.It comes just three weeks after Beijing published its 2020 census, which showed China’s population was growing at its slowest rate in decades. That’s putting major pressure on an economy that relies on a young workforce to support an aging population and keep up high levels of growth.China’s one-child policy was in place for more than 35 years as Beijing tried to address overpopulation and alleviate poverty.

In 2015, the Chinese government announced that it would loosen the restrictions to allow up to two children per family. But the reversal failed to raise the country’s birth rate, which fell by almost 15% year-on-year in 2020.— Laura He, Ben Westcott and Eric Cheung contributed reporting.

By Julia HorowitzCNN Business

Updated 9:39 AM ET, Mon May 31, 2021

China to allow parents to have up to three children

China mystery animal box craze causes outrage

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-57013197

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One of the animals rescued in Chengdu
image captionBoxes of mystery animals have been seen for sale on shopping sites such as Taobao

A craze in which pets are sold in mystery parcels has caused outrage in China after a number of animals were found dead in a vehicle on Monday.

The “blind box” craze sees people order a box containing an animal that is then sent to them through the post.

On Monday, 160 distressed cats and dogs were located inside a courier company’s truck in Chengdu.

It has prompted calls for action on the phenomenon as well as on the purchase of animals online in general.

According to Chinese law the transportation of live animals is prohibited, but “blind boxes” are incredibly popular, state media reports.

A range of the boxes containing animals such as tortoises, lizards and rats have been reported for sale on sites such as Taobao.

On Monday animal rescue group Chengdu Aizhijia Animal Rescue Centre said it had intercepted a vehicle carrying 160 dogs and cats, all under three months old. It said a number of them had died.

The group posted video footage of the boxes piled up to the ceiling of the truck on social media site Weibo.

“The cargo box is full of screams from cats and puppies,” the group wrote.

The boxes of animals can be seen inside the truck
image captionImages from the scene show boxes of animals inside the truck

Volunteers stayed with the animals throughout the night, feeding them and giving them water, while they underwent health inspections.

The rescue centre announced on Thursday that it had managed to bring the animals back to their base for resettlement and a further 38 were receiving medical treatment.

The courier company involved, ZTO, said the person in charge of delivery safety in Sichuan province has been suspended and his annual performance bonus had been deducted. It confirmed that it had broken China’s postal regulations and apologised to members of the public, People’s Daily Online reported.

ZTO also said it had launched additional training regarding postal safety and national animal protection.

Animals pictured inside boxes
image captionThe animals were found in a delivery truck in Chengdu on Monday

The incident has caused outrage on social media with people calling for a boycott of such boxes and buying animals online. The phrase “pet blind box” has had millions of views on Weibo.

“Have we made any achievements in the rescue and management of stray animals? Now there is a pet blind box industry?” one user wrote.

Another wrote: “Let’s talk about boycotting pet blind boxes again. What they need is a home, not an uncertain possibility”.

State media Xinhua described pet “blind boxes” as a “desecration of life” and said courier companies and e-commerce platforms must “strengthen self-examination and self-correction”.

It also called on buyers and sellers to have “more goodwill and more respect for life”.

First U.S.-China meeting under Biden gets off to a rocky start

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/19/-first-us-china-meeting-under-biden-gets-off-to-a-rocky-start.html

PUBLISHED THU, MAR 18 20218:45 PM EDTUPDATED FRI, MAR 19 20213:07 AM EDTEvelyn Cheng@CHENGEVELYNSHAREShare Article via FacebookShare Article via TwitterShare Article via LinkedInShare Article via EmailKEY POINTS

  • The first high-level gathering of U.S. and Chinese officials under President Joe Biden kicked off with an exchange of insults at a pre-meeting press event Thursday, according to NBC News.
  • The two-day talks are set to conclude Friday.
  • A planned four-minute photo session for the officials to address reporters ended up lasting one hour and 15 minutes due to a frothy exchange, according to NBC News
Opening session of U.S.-China talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska on March 18, 2021

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (2nd R), joined by national security advisor Jake Sullivan (R), speaks while facing Yang Jiechi (2nd L), director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office, and Wang Yi (L), China’s foreign minister at the opening session of U.S.-China talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska on March 18, 2021.Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

BEIJING — The first high-level gathering of U.S. and Chinese officials under President Joe Biden kicked off with an exchange of insults at a pre-meeting press event in Alaska on Thursday.

A planned four-minute photo session for the officials to address reporters ended up lasting one hour and 15 minutes due to a frothy exchange, according to NBC News. Both the Chinese and U.S. side kept calling the reporters back into the room so they could add remarks.

Expectations were already low for the meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi, director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party.

In his opening remarks, Blinken said the U.S. would discuss its “deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, economic coercion toward our allies.”

“Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability. That’s why they’re not merely internal matters, and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today,” Blinken said. “I said that the United States relationship with China will be competitive where it should be, collaborative where it can be, adversarial where it must be.”The United States does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength.Yang JiechiDIRECTOR OF THE CENTRAL FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMISSION

Beijing considers issues in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan as part of its domestic affairs, and the officials reiterated at the meeting that China is firmly opposed to foreign interference.

Yang said the U.S. side “carefully orchestrated” the dialogue, according to an official translation reported by NBC.

“I think we thought too well of the United States, we thought that the U.S. side will follow the necessary diplomatic protocols,” Yang said, adding that “the United States does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength.”

Yang said the U.S. must deal with the Chinese side in “the right way” and reiterated Beijing’s call for cooperation.I’m hearing deep satisfaction that the United States is back, that we’re reengaged with our allies and partners. I’m also hearing deep concern about some of the actions your government is taking.Antony BlinkenU.S. SECRETARY OF STATE

Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has been consolidating its power at home and abroad. In the last year, Beijing has pushed ahead with major trade deals with Asia-Pacific neighbors and the European Union.

Chinese authorities have also emphasized their success in quickly controlling the coronavirus pandemic domestically, and their claim of lifting all 1.4 billion people in the country out of poverty — both of which Yang pointed to in his meeting with U.S. officials.

“We believe that it is important for the United States to change its own image, and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world,” Yang said.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately have a comment.

State-run broadcaster CCTV said the U.S. went “seriously overtime” in its opening remarks and “provoked disputes,” according to a CNBC translation of the Mandarin-language report.WATCH NOWVIDEO03:35China will be thinking “purely in their interest” in cooperation

Blinken arrived in Alaska fresh from a trip to Japan and South Korea. He told his Chinese counterparts that what he was hearing from other countries was very different from what Wang described as hopes for demonstrations of goodwill and sincerity between the U.S. and China.

“I’m hearing deep satisfaction that the United States is back, that we’re reengaged with our allies and partners,” Blinken said. “I’m also hearing deep concern about some of the actions your government is taking. And we’ll have an opportunity to discuss those when we get down to work.”

The first round of discussions between the two countries subsequently ended after more than three hours. The two-day talks are set to conclude Friday.

Tensions between the U.S. and China escalated in the last few years under former President Donald Trump, who used tariffs and sanctions to address persistent complaints about China’s lack of intellectual property protection, requirements of forced technology transfer and other unfair business practices. The dispute initially centered on trade, before spilling over into technology, finance and the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Just as Biden was inaugurated, Beijing announced sanctions on 28 people, including several members of the Trump administration. Days before the first high-level meeting between the two countries, the Biden administration announced sanctions on 24 Chinese officials.

Analysts have expected Biden to take a more measured approach and work more closely with U.S. allies in putting pressure on China.

Biden’s meeting with “the Quad,” a new alliance to counter China, explained

A decade-old idea — a four-nation group to curb China’s aggression — is about to have a big moment.By Alex Ward@AlexWardVoxalex.ward@vox.com  Mar 12, 2021, 8:30am EST

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President Joe Biden at the White House on March 10. He’s set to meet with other leaders of the Quad — Japan, Australia, and India — on Friday.

When President Joe Biden meets virtually with the leaders of Japan, India, and Australia on Friday, he’ll be doing much more than joining a routine gathering of nations. He’ll be showcasing the growing importance of an informal alliance of those four countries to counter China, known as “the Quad.”

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, an idea formed in the aftermath of the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, has never had its heads of government meet before. And despite 14 years of trying to making it an effective forum to coordinate policy in the Indo-Pacific, it rarely did much of substance.

But Friday’s session is set to change that.

Senior administration officials said the Quad will announce an “historic” and “unprecedented” financing agreement to help India, the world’s second-most-populous country, produce 1 billion vaccines by 2022. Nikkei Asia on Wednesday noted the group plans to build a supply chain of rare-earth minerals that could erode China’s dominance in the making of products such as smartphones and batteries for electric vehicles. And multiple sources say the four nations will, for the first time, release a joint statement about their shared vision for regional cooperation.

The presidential-level meeting and these moves, then, “is a declaration that the Quad is here to stay,” said Tanvi Madan, an expert on the group at the Brookings Institution.

But the group’s newfound prominence isn’t without controversy. Beijing views it (understandably) as expressly designed to thwart China’s economic and military aims.

While most experts see it that way, too, no member state — including the US — will outwardly say concerns about China animate the Quad. Instead, they claim it exists for like-minded democratic nations to improve the lives of millions in the region and maintain the geopolitical status quo.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price, for example, told reporters this week that the group deals with “urgent challenges” but wasn’t “about any single competitor.”

What happens on Friday will thus impact the future of both America’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific and US-China relations. The expectation is Biden and his counterparts will solidify the Quad’s place in those futures.

“For the United States, this is a big buy-in,” said Sheila Smith, a senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington, DC. “This is a pretty significant statement of American intent to build with these countries a framework for the region going forward.”

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What is the Quad?

The Quad was born out of tragedy and necessity.

In December 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck the Indian Ocean off the coast of Indonesia, unleashing the deadliest tsunami in recorded history. Around 230,000 people were killed by the earthquake and tsunami in a matter of hours. Its effects were felt mostly in Indonesia but also as far away as eastern Africa. The event caused an estimated $10 billion in damages worldwide, making it one of the worst-ever humanitarian catastrophes.

“Basic infrastructure like shelter, medical capacity, transportation routes, emergency services, power, communication, and sanitation were lost,” the Center for International Maritime Security noted in 2016.

Armed forces from the United StatesIndiaJapan, and Australia all pitched in to help with the response and even worked together in what was known as the Tsunami Core Group. That coordination cell was effective and proved the concept of quadrilateral cooperation. But after all the ships and helicopters returned to their bases, there was no real follow-up to turn the four-way partnership into something longer lasting.

US Navy sailors fill jugs with purified water on January 4, 2005, to support the humanitarian response after the 2004 tsunami and earthquake.

Then, in 2007, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo was talking with aides about how to turn his more hawkish foreign policy views into actual policy. One way to do that, CFR’s Smith told me, was “to put values diplomacy at the center of [Japan’s] thinking about working with partners in the region.” Plus, it’d be good if strong democracies banded together to keep the Indo-Pacific free and open for trade, among other things.

The Japanese government recalled the success of the four-nation tsunami team and considered that a potential model for such a group.

A flurry of discussion led to some progress in 2007 as the nascent Quad held one military drill and round of dialogue. But after China sharply criticized the group’s formation, Australia (and also India, some say) got cold feet and withdrew from the four-nation team in order to maintain good relations with China.

Abe’s Quad dreams were thus crushed and remained so for 10 years.

“You have to remember that this was a different period in how these countries thought about relations with China,” Smith told me, noting they hoped to engage Beijing and thereby encourage it to become a more responsible player on the world stage. “Flash forward a decade, now we have very different thinking about Chinese power.”

Confrontation, not cooperation, with China became the preferred approach in Washington, ushered in partly over the last four years by former President Donald Trump.

In November 2017, the Trump administration revived the Quad idea with their foreign counterparts. The four nations said they’d work together to patrol regional waterways where China was acting aggressively, such as in the South China Sea. That led some commentators and Chinese officials to speculate they were witnessing the embryonic stages of an “Asian NATO,” a reference to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which began as a military alliance to counter the Soviet Union in Europe.

The Quad’s members shut down any talk of that nature, releasing public statements that never cited China’s rise for the Quad’s return. “The discussions focused on cooperation based on their converging vision and values for promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in an increasingly inter-connected region that they share with each other and with other partners,” a statement from India’s Ministry of External Affairs read at the time.

But experts are nearly unanimous that the Quad rides again because President Xi Jinping has turned China into an openly antagonistic power. Among other things, he’s solidified control over the supply chains of key industries, and harassed neighbors at sea for territorial and energy gains.

China has also gotten into a deadly fight over a disputed border with India, started a trade war with Australiahacked the US government, and for years used its might to push Japan around on economic and military matters.

The animating idea behind the Quad, then, is that all four nations have a better chance of curbing China’s aggression together than apart. How exactly to confront Beijing, though, was the group’s long-unanswered question. “Quadrilateral cooperation was always a beautiful opportunity in search of a genuine agenda,” said Eric Sayers, an expert on US-China relations at the American Enterprise Institute.

Officials from the group have met at least seven times since 2017, but always below the presidential or prime ministerial level, to discuss concerns ranging from China’s trade practices to its growing military power. And last November, warships and warplanes from the four nations met for the Malabar military training exercise in the Indian Ocean, the greatest show of strength by the Quad members to date.

Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a meeting of the Quad in October 2020. 

But despite various meetings and statements supporting the Quad, it wasn’t really doing more than maritime training and expressing the need for broad cooperation, experts said. The best some could say was that the group brought the nations closer together and made the idea of a four-way framework in the Indo-Pacific more palatable.

The Quad, then, was a fine venue for the nations to interact, but mostly toothless.

Toothless, that is, until now.

The Quad’s Friday meeting is a major rollout for the group

A common thread in Biden’s foreign policy is the belief that solving big problems requires the US to work with allies and partners. Confronting China is one such challenge, and the Quad serves as a ready-made way to do just that.

The new administration isn’t “looking to Quad allies just for appearances,” said Sameer Lalwani, director of the South Asia program at the Stimson Center. “It’s about real burden sharing” among “the biggest countries, largest economies, maritime powers with real naval capabilities, and democracies.”

The two expected outcomes of Friday’s meeting are cases in point. India’s billion-plus population needs help to manufacture and distribute coronavirus vaccines. Instead of turning to China for that, the Quad’s three other nations are prepared to offer financial assistance.

“Something like the vaccine initiative will be the Quad’s most prominent, tangible outcome in some ways,” said Brookings’s Madan. It also has the “added benefit of saying to the region that this isn’t just about China.”

“It’s proof of concept for the Quad,” she added.

China also produces around 60 percent of the world’s rare-earth minerals, which has both Republicans and Democrats calling for the US to challenge Beijing on that front. If China continues to mine and refine most of the world’s rare earths, it will have a greater say in the future of telecommunications, green technology, and other important industries of the future that rely on these elements.

Part of Biden’s platform is to modernize America’s economy to compete with China in those sectors, which requires loosening Beijing’s grip on the rare-earths supply chain. That’s a massive challenge, but one made easier with big countries like India, Japan, and Australia willing to help, experts say.

In addition to potential movement on climate-related matters, there’s also an expectation that the four nations will release a joint statement, the first such statement of its kind for the Quad. Stimson’s Lalwani said such a united effort, while pro forma, would show the Quad is seen now as an important multilateral group, not just some side project.

“The Quad’s trajectory is clearly upward,” he said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a press conference on March 7. He’s been critical of the Quad.

That portends potential trouble with China, and Beijing has already made its displeasure with the group’s rise known.

Last October, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, “What [the Quad] pursues is to trumpet the Cold War mentality and to stir up confrontation among different groups and blocs and to stoke geopolitical competition.” That’s more heated rhetoric than he used back in 2018, when he called the concept of the Quad “sea foam” because it would soon dissipate.

But the Biden administration isn’t cowed and has stated emphatically that the Quad is a central part of its plans. The group is “fundamental, a foundation upon which to build substantial American policy in the Indo-Pacific region,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said during a January event at the US Institute of Peace.

That’s the right outlook, most experts told me. “If China was behaving fine, you wouldn’t see these countries engage on these things,” said Madan.

After Friday’s meeting, then, it’s likely the Quad will have officially moved from a fringe idea into a centerpiece of four nations’ designs for the region, one that could bring China to heel.

“The goal here is basically to introduce the Quad as a new feature of regular diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific,” a senior administration official told Reuters this week.

China adds more than 500 species to wildlife protection list

By Reuters Staff

2 MIN READ

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-environment-wildlife/china-adds-more-than-500-species-to-wildlife-protection-list-idUSKBN2A604H

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China has added 517 species to its list of major protected wild animals, part of its campaign in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to end the wild animal trade and destruction of habitats.

A joint statement on Friday by the forestry and agriculture ministries said adjusting the list had become “extremely urgent” because of recent changes in China’s wildlife situation. A total of 980 wild animals are now under state protection.

The ministries promised to work with local governments to identify and protect the habitats of the animals added to the list, which include the endangered large-spotted civet and several species of birds that have dwindled in number in recent years.

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Those who hunt and traffic the animals face fines and even custodial sentences for “level one” protected species, such as the critically endangered panda, pangolin and Yangtze finless porpoise.

China has been trying to crack down on the wildlife trade since January 2020, after the first cases of COVID-19 were linked to a seafood market in the central city of Wuhan that was known to sell exotic animal species.

Scientists speculate that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could have crossed into humans from bats through an intermediary species, with pangolins often identified as a potential candidate.

China has also promised to step up efforts to protect forests and wetlands, and to seal off nature reserves behind “ecological protection red lines” in a bid to reduce human exposure to virus spillovers.

China’s parliament announced plans to implement a permanent nationwide ban on wildlife trade and trafficking in February, though it left big loopholes for the captive breeding of animals traded for fur or used in traditional Chinese medicine.

In the first nine months of 2020, China prosecuted more than 15,000 people for wildlife crimes, up 66% from the same period a year earlier, state prosecutors said.

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

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

Seascape: the state of our oceansGalápagos Islands

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/aug/06/chinese-fleet-fishing-galapagos-islands-environment?fbclid=IwAR1m0ux_QLU-rqIe0Oo6lp1AtHvEq8KQWvMgLe8a7kjjm0NxXlgf0mkaXI0

A vast fishing armada off Ecuador’s biodiverse Pacific islands has stirred alarm over ‘indiscriminate’ fishing practicesSeascape: the state of our oceans is supported byAbout this content

Dan Collyns in Lima @yachay_dc

Thu 6 Aug 2020 05.30 EDTLast modified on Thu 6 Aug 2020 11.18 EDT

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The Chinese reefer ship Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 was intercepted inside the Galápagos marine reserve in 2017. It contained about 300 tonnes of mostly sharks, including protected species such as hammerhead and whale shark.
 The Chinese reefer ship Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 was intercepted in the Galápagos marine reserve in 2017 with about 300 tonnes of mostly sharks, including protected species. Photograph: Archivo Parque Nacional Galápagos

Jonathan Green had been tracking a whale shark named Hope across the eastern Pacific for 280 days when the satellite transmissions from a GPS tag on her dorsal fin abruptly stopped.

It was not unusual for the GPS signal to go silent, even for weeks at a time, said Green, a scientist who has been studying the world’s largest fish for three decades in the unique marine ecosystem around the Galápagos Islands.

Alarm over discovery of hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels near Galápagos Islands

 Read more

But then he looked at satellite images in the area where Hope was last tracked – more than a thousand nautical miles west of the islands – and noticed the ocean was being patrolled by hundreds of Chinese fishing boats.

“I began to look into it and found that at the very end of her track she began to speed up,” said Green, co-founder and director of the Galápagos Whale Shark Project.

“It went from one knot to six or seven knots for the last 32 minutes – which is, of course, the speed of a fishing boat,” he said.

The fishing vessels that Green saw on the satellite images are believed to belong to an enormous Chinese-flagged fleet which Ecuadorian authorities last week warned was just outside the Galápagos Islands’ territorial waters.

“I don’t have proof but my hypothesis is that she was caught by vessels from the same fleet which is now situated to the south of the islands,” Green told the Guardian. She is the third GPS-tracked whale shark to have gone missing in the last decade, he added.

The Chinese fleet, numbering more than 200 vessels, is in international waters just outside a maritime border around the Galápagos Islands and also Ecuador’s coastal waters, said Norman Wray, the islands’ governor.

‘The Galápagos Marine Reserve is a place of very great productivity, high biomass but also biodiversity.’
 A female whale shark in the Galápagos archipelago. ‘The Galápagos Marine Reserve is a place of very great productivity, high biomass but also biodiversity.’ Photograph: Simon J Pierce

Advertisementhttps://14f0d057a0fb5668fabe1a9b748ad093.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Chinese fishing vessels come every year to the seas around the Galápagos, which were declared a Unesco world heritage site in 1978, but this year’s fleet is one of the largest seen in recent years. Of the 248 vessels, 243 are flagged to China including to companies with suspected records of illegal, unreported and unregulated, or IUU, fishing, according to research by C4ADS, a data analysis NGO.

The fleet includes fishing boats and refrigerated container – or reefer – ships to store enormous catches.

Transferring cargo between vessels is prohibited under international maritime law yet the Chinese flotilla has supply and storage ships along with longline and squid fishing boats.

“There are some fleets which don’t seem to abide by any regulations,” said Wray.

One captain of an Ecuadorian tuna boat saw the Chinese fishing boats up close in early July, before the end of the tuna season.

“They just pull up everything!” said the captain, who asked not to be named. “We are obliged to take a biologist aboard who checks our haul; if we catch a shark we have to put it back, but who controls them?”

He recalled navigating through the fleet at night, constantly changing course to avoid boats, as their lights illuminated the sea to attract squid to the surface.

“It was like looking at a city at night,” he said.https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2020/08/galapagos_islands_map/giv-3902PwADw3d4ii3F/

The longline fishing boats had up to 500 lines, each with thousands of fishhooks, he estimated, and claimed that some of the vessels would turn off their automatic tracking systems to avoid detection, particularly when operating in protected areas.

Chinese fishing practices first caught the attention of Ecuador in 2017 when its navy seized the Chinese reefer Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 within the Galápagos marine reserve. Inside its containers were 6,000 frozen sharks – including the endangered hammerhead shark and whale shark.

“It was a slaughterhouse,” said Green, describing the images of the cargo hold. “This kind of slaughter is going on on a massive scale in international waters and nobody is witnessing it.”

The seizure prompted protests outside the Chinese embassy in Quito; Ecuador fined the vessel $6m and the 20 Chinese crew-members were later jailed for up to four years for illegal fishing.

The arrival of the latest fleet has also stirred public outrage and a formal complaint by Ecuador as its navy is on alert for any incursion into Ecuadorian waters.

The Chinese embassy in Quito said that China was a “responsible fishing nation” with a “zero-tolerance” attitude towards illegal fishing. It had confirmed with Ecuador’s navy that all the Chinese fishing vessels were operating legally “and don’t represent a threat to anyone”, it said in a statement last month. On Thursday China announced a three-month fishing ban in the high seas west of the marine reserve, but it will not come into force until September.

Roque Sevilla, a former mayor of Quito, who is leading a team in charge of designing a “protection strategy” for the islands, said the fleet practices “indiscriminate fishing – regardless of species or age – which is causing a serious deterioration of the quality of fauna that we will have in our seas”.

Ecuador would establish a corridor of marine reserves with Pacific-facing neighbours Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia to seal off important areas of marine diversity, Sevilla told the Guardian.

Shark finning: why the ocean’s most barbaric practice continues to boom

 Read more

Protecting the Cocos Ridge, an underwater mountain range which connects the Galápagos Islands to mainland Costa Rica, and the Carnegie Ridge which links the archipelago to Ecuador and continental South America, could close off more than 200,000 sq nautical miles of ocean otherwise vulnerable to industrial fishing, he said.

He added Ecuador had called for a diplomatic meeting with Chile, Peru, Colombia and Panama to present a formal protest against China.Advertisementhttps://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

“When the Galápagos’s protected area was first created it was cutting edge,” said Matt Rand, director of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy, “but compared to other newer marine protected areas Galápagos is now potentially lacking in size to protect the biodiversity.”

Milton Castillo, the Galápagos Islands’ representative for Ecuador’s human rights ombudsman’s office, said he had asked the prosecutor’s office to inspect the cargo holds of the Chinese ships based on the legal principle of the universal and extraterritorial protection of endangered species.

China’s distant-water fishing fleet is the biggest in the world, with nearly 17,000 vessels – 1,000 of which use “flags of convenience” and are registered in other countries, according to research by the Overseas Development Institute.https://www.youtube.com/embed/Uu5ka0lMZTo?embed_config=%7B%22relatedChannels%22%3A%5B%5D%2C%22adsConfig%22%3A%7B%22adTagParameters%22%3A%7B%22iu%22%3A%22%2F59666047%2Ftheguardian.com%2Fenvironment%2Farticle%2Fng%22%2C%22cust_params%22%3A%22sens%253Df%2526permutive%253D23527%252C24632%252C24663%252C24665%252C24670%252C24655%252C24668%252C26748%252C27872%252C28985%252C24672%252C30130%252C31470%252C24691%252C24675%252C24693%252C33392%252C27631%252C27638%252C29800%252C33143%252C24659%252C24645%252C24630%252C28165%252C24628%252C24641%252C24667%252C24674%252C24689%252C30377%252C27564%252C24606%252C24661%252C25367%252C26822%252C25471%252C26749%252C37344%252C37434%252C43272%2526pv%253Dkdjeomwyvw417kzfu7lw%2526bp%253Ddesktop%2526si%253Df%2526ab%253DSignInGateMainVariant-main-variant-1%252CdotcomRenderingControl-control%252ColdTlsSupportDeprecationControl-control%2526fr%253D10-15%2526cc%253DUS%2526s%253Denvironment%2526rp%253Ddotcom-platform%2526dcre%253Df%2526inskin%253Df%2526urlkw%253Dchinese%252Cfleet%252Cfishing%252Cgalapagos%252Cislands%252Cenvironment%2526rdp%253Df%2526consent_tcfv2%253Dna%2526cmp_interaction%253Dna%2526se%253Dseascape-the-state-of-our-oceans%2526ct%253Darticle%2526co%253Ddan-collyns%2526url%253D%25252Fenvironment%25252F2020%25252Faug%25252F06%25252Fchinese-fleet-fishing-galapagos-islands-environment%2526br%253Df%2526su%253D2%252C3%252C4%252C5%2526edition%253Dus%2526tn%253Dfeatures%2526p%253Dng%2526k%253Dasia-pacific%252Cworld%252Cecuador%252Cchina%252Cfish%252Cenvironment%252Camericas%252Cgalapagos-islands%2526sh%253Dhttps%25253A%25252F%25252Fgu.com%25252Fp%25252Feehna%2526pa%253Dt%22%7D%7D%7D&enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com&widgetid=1Play Video0:51 Footage shows Chinese fleet vessels transferring cargo in seas near Galápagos – video

The fleet often fishes in the territorial waters of low-income countries, the report said, having depleted fish stocks in domestic waters.

Green said the “explosion of life” created by the confluence of cold and warm ocean currents around the Galápagos Islands is exactly why the Chinese armada is hovering around the archipelago’s waters.

“The Galápagos marine reserve is a place of very great productivity, high biomass but also biodiversity,” he said. The longline fishing technique used by the fleet catch big fish like tuna, but also sharks, rays, turtles and marine mammals like sea lions and dolphins, he added.

“This is not fishing any more, it is simply destroying the resources of our oceans,” Green said. “We should ask whether any nation on this planet has the right to destroy what is common ground.”

A vast fishing armada off Ecuador’s biodiverse Pacific islands has stirred alarm over ‘indiscriminate’ fishing practicesSeascape: the state of our oceans is supported byAbout this content

Dan Collyns in Lima @yachay_dc

Thu 6 Aug 2020 05.30 EDTLast modified on Thu 6 Aug 2020 11.18 EDT

Shares3,875

The Chinese reefer ship Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 was intercepted inside the Galápagos marine reserve in 2017. It contained about 300 tonnes of mostly sharks, including protected species such as hammerhead and whale shark.
 The Chinese reefer ship Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 was intercepted in the Galápagos marine reserve in 2017 with about 300 tonnes of mostly sharks, including protected species. Photograph: Archivo Parque Nacional Galápagos

Jonathan Green had been tracking a whale shark named Hope across the eastern Pacific for 280 days when the satellite transmissions from a GPS tag on her dorsal fin abruptly stopped.

It was not unusual for the GPS signal to go silent, even for weeks at a time, said Green, a scientist who has been studying the world’s largest fish for three decades in the unique marine ecosystem around the Galápagos Islands.

Alarm over discovery of hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels near Galápagos Islands

 Read more

But then he looked at satellite images in the area where Hope was last tracked – more than a thousand nautical miles west of the islands – and noticed the ocean was being patrolled by hundreds of Chinese fishing boats.

“I began to look into it and found that at the very end of her track she began to speed up,” said Green, co-founder and director of the Galápagos Whale Shark Project.

“It went from one knot to six or seven knots for the last 32 minutes – which is, of course, the speed of a fishing boat,” he said.

The fishing vessels that Green saw on the satellite images are believed to belong to an enormous Chinese-flagged fleet which Ecuadorian authorities last week warned was just outside the Galápagos Islands’ territorial waters.

“I don’t have proof but my hypothesis is that she was caught by vessels from the same fleet which is now situated to the south of the islands,” Green told the Guardian. She is the third GPS-tracked whale shark to have gone missing in the last decade, he added.

The Chinese fleet, numbering more than 200 vessels, is in international waters just outside a maritime border around the Galápagos Islands and also Ecuador’s coastal waters, said Norman Wray, the islands’ governor.

‘The Galápagos Marine Reserve is a place of very great productivity, high biomass but also biodiversity.’
 A female whale shark in the Galápagos archipelago. ‘The Galápagos Marine Reserve is a place of very great productivity, high biomass but also biodiversity.’ Photograph: Simon J Pierce

Advertisementhttps://14f0d057a0fb5668fabe1a9b748ad093.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Chinese fishing vessels come every year to the seas around the Galápagos, which were declared a Unesco world heritage site in 1978, but this year’s fleet is one of the largest seen in recent years. Of the 248 vessels, 243 are flagged to China including to companies with suspected records of illegal, unreported and unregulated, or IUU, fishing, according to research by C4ADS, a data analysis NGO.

The fleet includes fishing boats and refrigerated container – or reefer – ships to store enormous catches.

Transferring cargo between vessels is prohibited under international maritime law yet the Chinese flotilla has supply and storage ships along with longline and squid fishing boats.

“There are some fleets which don’t seem to abide by any regulations,” said Wray.

One captain of an Ecuadorian tuna boat saw the Chinese fishing boats up close in early July, before the end of the tuna season.

“They just pull up everything!” said the captain, who asked not to be named. “We are obliged to take a biologist aboard who checks our haul; if we catch a shark we have to put it back, but who controls them?”

He recalled navigating through the fleet at night, constantly changing course to avoid boats, as their lights illuminated the sea to attract squid to the surface.

“It was like looking at a city at night,” he said.https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2020/08/galapagos_islands_map/giv-3902PwADw3d4ii3F/

The longline fishing boats had up to 500 lines, each with thousands of fishhooks, he estimated, and claimed that some of the vessels would turn off their automatic tracking systems to avoid detection, particularly when operating in protected areas.

Chinese fishing practices first caught the attention of Ecuador in 2017 when its navy seized the Chinese reefer Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 within the Galápagos marine reserve. Inside its containers were 6,000 frozen sharks – including the endangered hammerhead shark and whale shark.

“It was a slaughterhouse,” said Green, describing the images of the cargo hold. “This kind of slaughter is going on on a massive scale in international waters and nobody is witnessing it.”

The seizure prompted protests outside the Chinese embassy in Quito; Ecuador fined the vessel $6m and the 20 Chinese crew-members were later jailed for up to four years for illegal fishing.

The arrival of the latest fleet has also stirred public outrage and a formal complaint by Ecuador as its navy is on alert for any incursion into Ecuadorian waters.

The Chinese embassy in Quito said that China was a “responsible fishing nation” with a “zero-tolerance” attitude towards illegal fishing. It had confirmed with Ecuador’s navy that all the Chinese fishing vessels were operating legally “and don’t represent a threat to anyone”, it said in a statement last month. On Thursday China announced a three-month fishing ban in the high seas west of the marine reserve, but it will not come into force until September.

Roque Sevilla, a former mayor of Quito, who is leading a team in charge of designing a “protection strategy” for the islands, said the fleet practices “indiscriminate fishing – regardless of species or age – which is causing a serious deterioration of the quality of fauna that we will have in our seas”.

Ecuador would establish a corridor of marine reserves with Pacific-facing neighbours Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia to seal off important areas of marine diversity, Sevilla told the Guardian.

Shark finning: why the ocean’s most barbaric practice continues to boom

 Read more

Protecting the Cocos Ridge, an underwater mountain range which connects the Galápagos Islands to mainland Costa Rica, and the Carnegie Ridge which links the archipelago to Ecuador and continental South America, could close off more than 200,000 sq nautical miles of ocean otherwise vulnerable to industrial fishing, he said.

He added Ecuador had called for a diplomatic meeting with Chile, Peru, Colombia and Panama to present a formal protest against China.Advertisementhttps://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

“When the Galápagos’s protected area was first created it was cutting edge,” said Matt Rand, director of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy, “but compared to other newer marine protected areas Galápagos is now potentially lacking in size to protect the biodiversity.”

Milton Castillo, the Galápagos Islands’ representative for Ecuador’s human rights ombudsman’s office, said he had asked the prosecutor’s office to inspect the cargo holds of the Chinese ships based on the legal principle of the universal and extraterritorial protection of endangered species.

China’s distant-water fishing fleet is the biggest in the world, with nearly 17,000 vessels – 1,000 of which use “flags of convenience” and are registered in other countries, according to research by the Overseas Development Institute.https://www.youtube.com/embed/Uu5ka0lMZTo?embed_config=%7B%22relatedChannels%22%3A%5B%5D%2C%22adsConfig%22%3A%7B%22adTagParameters%22%3A%7B%22iu%22%3A%22%2F59666047%2Ftheguardian.com%2Fenvironment%2Farticle%2Fng%22%2C%22cust_params%22%3A%22sens%253Df%2526permutive%253D23527%252C24632%252C24663%252C24665%252C24670%252C24655%252C24668%252C26748%252C27872%252C28985%252C24672%252C30130%252C31470%252C24691%252C24675%252C24693%252C33392%252C27631%252C27638%252C29800%252C33143%252C24659%252C24645%252C24630%252C28165%252C24628%252C24641%252C24667%252C24674%252C24689%252C30377%252C27564%252C24606%252C24661%252C25367%252C26822%252C25471%252C26749%252C37344%252C37434%252C43272%2526pv%253Dkdjeomwyvw417kzfu7lw%2526bp%253Ddesktop%2526si%253Df%2526ab%253DSignInGateMainVariant-main-variant-1%252CdotcomRenderingControl-control%252ColdTlsSupportDeprecationControl-control%2526fr%253D10-15%2526cc%253DUS%2526s%253Denvironment%2526rp%253Ddotcom-platform%2526dcre%253Df%2526inskin%253Df%2526urlkw%253Dchinese%252Cfleet%252Cfishing%252Cgalapagos%252Cislands%252Cenvironment%2526rdp%253Df%2526consent_tcfv2%253Dna%2526cmp_interaction%253Dna%2526se%253Dseascape-the-state-of-our-oceans%2526ct%253Darticle%2526co%253Ddan-collyns%2526url%253D%25252Fenvironment%25252F2020%25252Faug%25252F06%25252Fchinese-fleet-fishing-galapagos-islands-environment%2526br%253Df%2526su%253D2%252C3%252C4%252C5%2526edition%253Dus%2526tn%253Dfeatures%2526p%253Dng%2526k%253Dasia-pacific%252Cworld%252Cecuador%252Cchina%252Cfish%252Cenvironment%252Camericas%252Cgalapagos-islands%2526sh%253Dhttps%25253A%25252F%25252Fgu.com%25252Fp%25252Feehna%2526pa%253Dt%22%7D%7D%7D&enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com&widgetid=1Play Video0:51 Footage shows Chinese fleet vessels transferring cargo in seas near Galápagos – video

The fleet often fishes in the territorial waters of low-income countries, the report said, having depleted fish stocks in domestic waters.

Green said the “explosion of life” created by the confluence of cold and warm ocean currents around the Galápagos Islands is exactly why the Chinese armada is hovering around the archipelago’s waters.

“The Galápagos marine reserve is a place of very great productivity, high biomass but also biodiversity,” he said. The longline fishing technique used by the fleet catch big fish like tuna, but also sharks, rays, turtles and marine mammals like sea lions and dolphins, he added.

“This is not fishing any more, it is simply destroying the resources of our oceans,” Green said. “We should ask whether any nation on this planet has the right to destroy what is common ground.”