An estimated 300-strong fishing fleet is rapidly approaching the World Heritage Site on the Ecuadorian Coast, where Darwin's theory of evolution was inspired by biodiversity.
Why it matters: More than 20% of marine species found in the Galpagos archipelagos reserves are only found there.
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Most of the illegal and unregulated vessels fish squid. This is a food source for many Galpagos animals, including commercial species such as tuna, and it is also a source of income.
Local NGOs warn, however, that other species could be caught in the nets.
In the past, Chinese ships were detained with endangered shark fins.
Details: The majority of detected fishing is done in international waters, just outside the protected area off the islands.
Many of the Galpagos' marine animals migrate, such as the sea turtles and the hammerhead shark. Therefore, activists claim that the fishermen wait for them to leave the protected zone to capture them.
Although the Ecuadorian navy monitors the waters, many vessels are able to evade detection by disengaging their satellite tracking systems.
The big picture: In recent years, illegal fishing off Peru, Chile and Argentina's coasts has been the focus of many Chinese, Korean, and sometimes Spanish vessels.
But, the unregulated fishing is not limited to foreign vessels. Research shows that 20% of shark fin exports come from Ecuadorian and Peruvian ships.
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