The large, extra-hemispheric fishing fleet, with vessels mostly from China, that operated in international waters close to Ecuador’s economic zone, has crossed to the South Atlantic.
TERESA BO: These lights may look like a city from the sky, but they are fishing vessels just outside Argentina's exclusive economic zone. There are hundreds of them. Argentina's Coast Guard say their main task is to control their movements so they do not cross into Argentine territory.
NESTOR ALBERTO KIFERLING: [SPEAKING SPANISH]
TRANSLATOR: You have vessels with Argentine flags and vessels with foreign flags. All of these are ships that have been detected by our system. When there is irregular activity, they tend to shut down their radars. But we can still track them with satellites.
TERESA BO: Illegal fishing can generate millions of in losses and cause irreparable damage to ecosystems. That's why it's one of the biggest challenges nations face today.
From this room, Argentine authorities can monitor what's happening in its economic exclusive zones. But what authorities here are saying is that what's important is to regulate what's happening in international waters, where most of these vessels that you can see here are located.
- The ships come mostly from China, but also Spain, Portugal, and Japan. This year, the United States launched operation Southern Cross to combat illegal and unregulated fishing in the southern Atlantic. They participated in joint operations with Brazil, Uruguay, and Guyana.
ADAM MORRISON: We'll not only focus on training and qualification issues related to the charter and crew itself. But we'll also focus on partnering with South Atlantic countries that have a like minded approach to curbing illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing habits.
TERESA BO: Greenpeace Argentina has been highlighting the damage caused by unregulated fishing in the area. In 2018, the ship, Esperanza, reached what is known as the Blue Hole, where Argentina's exclusive economic zone is located, and captured images from the seabed. Biologists say it has been devastated by overfishing and inadequate policing of international waters.
LUISINA VUESO: [SPEAKING SPANISH]
TRANSLATOR: There's no regulation. There's no law in international waters. We need a new treaty that's being debated at the UN. It will allow countries to create sanctuaries. International waters are 45% of the water worldwide. Only 1% is protected.
TERESA BO: The treaty will be debated at the UN in August. Those who support it hope it will give nations more tools to protect their territories and the thousands of species currently under threat. Teresa Bo, Al Jazeera, Buenos Aires.