China's illegal distant water fishing destroying economies, environment

Written By: Sidhant Sibal WION
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Oct 23, 2020, 03:43 PM(IST)

China illegal fishing Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Distant Water Fishing is heavily subsidised by Beijing as most of the waters near its own coast have been overfished

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) in Exclusive economic zones of number of countries by Chinese vessels is destroying economies and environment of several countries it has emerged.

This is especially impacting developing countries and coastal countries and contributed to decreases in fish stocks including endangered fish species across several continents. 

China's distant water fishing (DWF) fleet number around 12,000-17,000 vessels with almost 1,000 Chinese vessels are flagged to countries other than China. These fleets started with overfishing of squids near North and South Korean and Japanese waters and now has expanded to Latin America and West Africa.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Latin America and West Africa most countries in these regions are unable to police and monitor their Exclusive economic zone (EEZ) effectively. In fact, Chinese vessels have caught fishes equal to a year's catch when it comes to Sengal. IUU fishing by China near the waters of North Korea has led to the depletion of squid stocks in the area.

It's China's domestic demand that is contributing to this illegal fishing, and at global scale represents 60-65 per cent of the stake, the highest.

China uses three methods to hide its involvement in illegal fishing, Chinese boat ‘go dark’ when they are near the EEZ of another country, a large number of Chinese vessels are flagged to countries other than China; and under complex laws hide their ownership to skirt local laws.

DWF is heavily subsidised by Beijing as most of the waters near its own coast have been overfished.

The Chinese government has stated that it plans to reduce the subsidy by 60 per cent on DWF but even that would mean that the country remains the world’s largest provider of it.

China has refused to join a WTO-led effort to end subsidies to DWF saying its a ‘developing country’. The country is yet to sign the 2016 Port State Measures Agreement, a UN treaty requiring countries to close their ports to illegal fishing vessels.

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