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30 Mar 2022

Environmental Justice Foundation (UK)

The Everwidening Net: Mapping the scale, nature and corporate structures of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by the Chinese distant-water fleet

The Everwidening Net: Mapping the scale, nature and corporate structures of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by the Chinese distant-water fleet

30 March 2022

This report presents a comprehensive analysis of China’s vast, opaque and, at times illegal global fisheries footprint, with the specific aim of informing appropriate and effective responses by fisheries decision-makers in China and globally.

Key Findings

  • The Chinese fleet has become a substantial presence in multiple developing countries. [...]
  • The CDWF has evolved from being entirely state-owned to being mostly privately owned. [...]
  • The CDWF is frequently associated with illegal fishing. [...]
  • With respect to the projects covering specific EEZs, data published by MARA highlights the EEZ of Mauritania as the one where the presence of the CDWF is by far the most significant. [...]
  • More broadly, Africa stands out by its apparent importance for the activities of the CDWF, accounting for 78.5% of the approved offshore fishery projects and 20 of the 29 EEZs mentioned in the notices published. [...]
  • Trawling vessels appear to be the most common type of vessel covered by EEZ-specific approved offshore fishery projects, with more than three in five fishing vessels using this gear. [...]
  • China has put a clear emphasis on developing its capacity to target squid species in recent years: vessels equipped to target squid now represent more than two in three approved offshore fishery projects covering oceanic areas.
  • Whilst data is limited, human rights abuses seem to be common amongst the CDWF, an issue that blights distant-water fishing more generally. Interviews conducted by EJF with 116 Indonesian crewmembers who have worked on vessels belonging to the CDWF indicate that 99% have experienced or witnessed wages being deducted or withheld, 97% have experienced some form of debt bondage/confiscation of guarantee money and documents, 89% have worked excessive overtime, 85% reported abusive working and living conditions, 70% experienced intimidation and threats, and 58% have seen or experienced physical violence. These findings have been echoed in EJF interviews with Ghanaian crew on board CDWF vessels in Ghanaian waters. All 10 crew interviewed had experienced or witnessed physical abuse by Chinese captains, and similarly all 10 reported poor living conditions on the vessels they operated on, including being forced to eat low nutrition food and consume poor quality water - often resulting in sickness and diarrhoea.
  • This report makes a series of recommendations, including the adoption of transparency measures from the EJF charter for transparency, bilateral and multilateral dialogues with China to end abuses and for the rapid phasing out of all subsidies to the CDWF ensuring a complete cessation of harmful subsidies no later than December 2023.