China issues new sustainability rules for its notorious fishing fleet
14 August 2020
For years, reports of illegal fishing activities have dogged China’s distant-water fishing fleet. Now, China is significantly tightening regulations governing these vessels for the first time in 17 years, with a slew of new rules taking effect throughout 2020, including harsher penalties for captains and companies found to have broken the law.
The rule changes include revisions to the Distant-Water Fishing Management Regulations, new Management Measures for High Seas Squid Fishery and a new Rule for High Seas Transshipment released earlier this year; as well as a revision to the Administrative Measures of the Vessel Monitoring System released in 2019. They all take effect between January 2020 and January 2021. Leaving less space for illegal activities, the changes are geared toward increasing transparency and promoting more sustainable practices.
Changes to the Distant-Water Fishing Management Regulations, which took effect April 1, include harsher punishment for those caught breaking the rules, a clamp-down on vessel monitoring, new port management procedures, stricter certification requirements, and clarification of penalties, responsibilities and enforcement measures, industry experts said. The country’s Wildlife Protection Law joined the list of acts that transgressions at sea are punishable under.
Four crew of one boat, the Long Xing 629, died of an unidentified illness while in service between December 2019 and April 2020. Three of their bodies were dumped at sea. Crewmates reported human rights abuses including forced labor.
“This incident clearly shows the need for policy change related to workers’ rights on board fishing vessels and for better monitoring, control, and surveillance measures,” [Philip] Chou said. Regulations that took effect in April mean that going forward companies like the one that owns the Long Xing 629 and its sister ships, Dalian Ocean Fishing Co Ltd., should be publicly blacklisted. The company did not respond to Mongabay’s request for comment.