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Article

26 Aug 2020

Author:
The Guardian

China needs to be more open about its fleet and fishing business, experts say

“'It's terrifying': can anyone stop China's vast armada of fishing boats?”, 25 August 2020

The recent discovery by the Ecuadorean navy of a vast fishing armada of 340 Chinese vessels just off the biodiverse Galápagos Islands stirred outrage both in Ecuador and overseas.

Under pressure after Ecuador’s strident response, China has given mixed signals that it could begin to reel in its vast international fishing fleet…

China’s vast fishing fleet, by far the world’s largest, has been overfishing seas much further from the world’s gaze than the islands known for their giant tortoises and iguanas. From West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea to the Korean peninsula, the fleet has moved into the waters of other countries – switching off transponders to avoid detection, depleting fish stocks and threatening food security for often poor coastal communities…

China’s new regulations… include harsher penalties for companies and captains involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated – or IUU – fishing. But conservationists monitoring the Galápagos episode are sceptical.

“Beyond this one-sided announcement, the problem remains the same,” says Pablo Guerrero, marine conservation director for WWF Ecuador. “These boats operate without observers on board, they do not return to port, they transship their catch to mother vessels, which land the catch at ports. So, in a nutshell, they are fishing all the time, the fishing operation doesn’t stop.”…

… Many ships spend long periods at sea where shocking human rights violations have been reported.

NGO Global Fishing Watch and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) thinktank have used cutting-edge technology and data analysis to reveal that the size and scope of China’s distant-water fleet has been hugely underreported…

“On the surface, it looks like a very fragmented fleet, but we suspect the core of it is probably in the hands of a few companies,” says Gutiérrez [the lead author of the ODI report]…

“To shift the dynamic there needs to be radical transparency,” says Philip Chou, an expert on distant-water fishing at Oceana, a marine conservation group…

China would need to open up about its catch, the real-time location of its fleets, the ownership of fishing vessels, and the opaque bilateral or regional agreements it has made with low-income coastal nations, Chou says…

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