A fleet of about 260 Chinese fishing boats was discovered nearly 200 miles off the coast of the Galapagos Islands.
Ecuadorian officials say the boats appear every year, and they fear the ships will try to harm the area's precious marine life, The Guardian reported.
Oswaldo Jarrin, Ecuador's defense minister, told Reuters the Navy has been on "alert" since the ships were discovered.
Jarrin said officials have increased patrolling to the exclusive economic zone's border around the ecologically sensitive islands.
A fleet of about 260 Chinese fishing boats have been spotted nearly 200 miles off the coast of the Galapagos Islands, and Ecuadorian officials fear they could harm the archipelago's precious marine life.
Ecuador's former environment minister, Yolanda Kakabadse, told The Guardian that the ships are in international waters, on the edge of a 188-mile-wide exclusive economic zone around the ecologically sensitive islands.
Ecuadorian Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrin told Reuters that the Navy is on alert, and officials have increased patrolling to the zone's border to ensure the ships don't enter the area.
Both officials said that Chinese vessels fish near the Galapagos Islands every year, and this year they're fearing they could see a repeat of 2017, when a Chinese fishing vessel was found in the Galapagos Marine Reserve — a biologically diverse and marine protected area — carrying 330 tons of marine wildlife.
"We are on alert, (conducting) surveillance, patrolling to avoid an incident such as what happened in 2017," Jarrin told Reuters.
Ecuador President Lenín Moreno said over the weekend that he's working to further protect the area.
"We will work in a regional position to defend and protect the Exclusive Economic Zone around the Galápagos Marine Reserve, one of the richest fishing areas and a hotbed of life for the entire planet," he said in Spanish on Twitter.
According to The Guardian, Ecuador is working with Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia to further protect areas around the Galapagos Islands.
The Galapagos Islands and their surrounding waters are a UNESCO world heritage site, and are known for their plants and wildlife both on land and in the water, including endangered hammerhead sharks, flamingos, and turtles.
The archipelago was also the inspiration behind scientist Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
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