Photo: Simon Ager.

China has agreed to allow Ecuadorian authorities monitor the movement of its fishing fleet and to make periodic inspections of its catches in waters near the Galapagos Islands, reports the Cuenca High Life blog.

The Chinese ambassador to Ecuador also said that the fleet would leave the area within a month and not return until December.

The agreement was reached Wednesday during meetings between Chinese and Ecuadorian officials. Although fisheries and some environmental consultants called the agreement “an excellent start,” others said it a “joke and a mockery” that offers little protection to the Galapagos marine preserve.

Galapagos Islands environmental consultant Yolanda Kakabadse says the agreement is a justification of Ecuador’s interests to protect marine life near the islands. “The Chinese are acknowledging our claim to defend the preserve,” she said. “In the past, the fishing fleet refused to talk to Ecuador about our interests and said they were in international waters and had a legal right to fish there.”

Kakabadse added that it is notable that, for the first time, China appears concerned about its reputation for observing international fishing regulations. “This is a very important first step,” she said.