Sunday, November 22, 2020

"Cat and mouse on the high seas: on the trail of China's vast squid fleet"

No, not some Sino-Goldman chimera/joint venture.

From the Guardian, October 21, 2020:

Huge foreign fleets gather 400 miles off South America’s Pacific coast attracted by giant squid. Peru’s coastguard must defend its territorial waters amid rising tension

The ocean is as black as chipped obsidian, yet whichever way you look dozens of bright lights illuminate the water and the night sky. Nearly 400 nautical miles from the South American mainland, the crew of a Peruvian coastguard ship count more than 30 Chinese squid boats lighting up the sea like a city at night.

Some of the boats shine luminous green, others glow blinding white like an alien spacecraft in a movie. Rigged along each side of the ships, incandescent lamps attract giant squid near the surface, where they can be hauled from the ocean by long metal arms jutting over the water.

The coastguard cutter Río Cañete drifts within 100 metres of a squid jigger, and the men on each boat gaze at each other across the water. The Chinese fishermen work in silence; the crew of the Peruvian boat is also hushed – none of them has witnessed such a scene before.

“This is just part of a considerable fleet off our coastal waters,” says Commander Eduardo Atkins, looking out from the bridge of the 55-metre patrol boat.

“They’ve always been off our coasts, from Ecuador to Argentina, [but ] this time there’s been more media attention and the public feel affected. Our job is to dissuade them from entering our maritime domain.”

The Guardian recently joined the Peruvian coastguard on a four-day patrol into international waters which came amid growing tension over the presence of the huge Chinese fleet off the coast of South America – some of the richest fishing grounds in the world.

More than 250 Chinese ships were first detected in July as they skirted territorial waters off the Galápagos Islands, stirring outrage in Ecuador and raising global concern about the practices of the world’s largest distant-water fishing fleet.

Hawkeye 360, a radio frequency data analytics firm, reported that boats were “going dark” by switching off their AIS satellite tracking and entering the islands’ exclusive economic zone.

“We found multiple examples of maritime radio frequency activity that is within the Galápagos exclusive economic zone adjacent to the Chinese fleet,” said HawkEye 360’s CEO, John Serafini.

“These signals don’t align with any AIS tracking. Although the activity could represent legitimate vessels, at the very least it is suspicious behaviour,” he said.

The hunt for Han Feng 806

Earlier that day, the Río Cañete heaved and shuddered through the machine-grey waves as a coastguard officer read out ships’ names from the radar scanner. Commander Atkins steered the cutter south-west directly towards the cluster of Chinese vessels....