Life has become dangerous for small-scale fishermen in the coastal town of Manta, Ecuador. Modern-day pirates have made a habit of hijacking their boats, assaulting the crews and even going as far as killing some of them.
The perils of fishing in the Ecuadorian coast are only the latest problem its fishermen face. Already struggling with the challenges of over-fished waters, they also deal with unforgiving competition from large scales fisheries that have forced them to go further into deep waters in order to make their daily catch.
For a decade, the U.S. Air Force helped Ecuador patrol its waters from a Forward Operating Location, or FOL, a military post manned with around 200 troops that operated out of Manta’s international airport.
The U.S. mission flew anti-narcotics flights meant to help catch cocaine smugglers close to the point of production. The foreign military presence was deemed by many in Ecuador as a violation of the country’s sovereignty, and in 2009 President Rafael Correa fulfilled his campaign promise to close it down, sending local and national police to take over those duties.