China’s vast industrial-scale fleet fishing in distant oceansView(s):
By Kapila Bandara
A few years ago, Ecuador’s navy found to its horror, a mega, illegal Chinese fishing fleet of 340 vessels just outside the biodiverse Galápagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
They had also avoided being tracked by illegally switching off satellite communications.
China’s vast fishing armada has been for years raiding oceans beyond China including the Indian Ocean under the cover of night.
China says it does not tolerate illegal operations.
The IUU Fishing Index ranked China as the worst perpetrator of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in 2021 and 2019. The Overseas Development Institute has counted this Chinese fleet at 16,966 vessels and many fly flags of convenience. Vessels have been found in Argentina and West Africa.
A part of this highly sophisticated, industrial scale operation, is large vessels of Chinese state companies. These are equipped with bright lights to fish for squid, a highly lucrative industry. They are served by giant fuel tankers, such as the Ocean Ruby, which had been detected and photographed.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation found that in 2018, China reported about 2.26 million tonnes from its “distant-water fishery”, but provided details on species and fishing area only for those catches marketed in China (about 40% of the total for distant-water catch).
In 2018, China was the biggest player in marine fish capture, accounting for 15% of the global catch, or 12.7m tonnes, way ahead of nearest rival Peru which captured 7.15m tonnes, FAO data show. India’s catch was 3.6m tonnes. China’s catch was bigger than that of the second and third ranked countries combined.
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