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5 Jun 2023

Torbjörn Wester, Telegraph (UK)

Ghana: Chinese trawlers provoke concern over livelihoods and sustainability

"‘They are stealing what should be ours’: Chinese trawlers are emptying West African fishing grounds" 5 June 2023

[...] In the early hours of the morning, before the heat begins to press, the fishermen set off from Jamestown, a small port outside Ghana’s capital, Accra. They return at 3pm in one piece, having encountered several trawlers, but the fishermen fear their days in the business are numbered.

This is because the Chinese vessels, far superior in size and capability than the artisanal fishermen of Ghana, are not only causing capsizes and deliberately destroying the nets of rival boats – they’re also bleeding the ocean dry of its fish. [...]

This trend of overfishing and ever-diminishing returns is being repeated up and down the entire West African coast, where hundreds of thousands of people rely on the sea to stave off hunger and make a living. [...]

“They are stealing what should be ours,” says one man, pointing out to sea. “They” are not visible to the naked eye. But according to the app Marinetraffic, which uses tracking technology to monitor ship movements in real time, a handful of Chinese vessels are out at sea, prowling the deep blue for its precious commodities. [...]

No other country comes close to the fishing capacity of China. Today, the fleet consists of thousands of ships – estimates ranging from just under 3,000 to close to 17,000 – of which a large proportion are bottom trawlers, a type of vessel known to cause great ecological damage. [...]

There is no official catch data for the Chinese long-distance fishery. But according to many reports, the effects are now being felt more and more clearly in the world’s oceans. It has also led to diplomatic protests from several countries, including Ecuador, after Chinese ships landed thousands of tons of octopus off the Galapagos Islands.

Although much of the Chinese fishery does not violate current regulations, there are many examples of illegal fishing, human rights violations and corruption. This has become particularly evident in Ghanaian waters, where the Chinese fishing industry has been forced to adopt a different approach. [...]