So China’s “invisible” ships are plundering the oceans

They fish invisibly in all the world’s seas, without respecting environmental sustainability rules and criteria. As an independent study funded by the European Parliament explains, it’s not about pirates, it’s about the Chinese fishing fleet. Through opaque government subsidies, blackouts, and under-the-table deals with African and Asian countries, Beijing is reportedly depleting stocks in the oceans to feed its population and meet the needs of its national processing industries. The research identifies the dangers posed by these practices, as well as possible solutions that the European Union should adopt to protect itself and not see the depletion of international fish stocks.

Sustainability banned

There are about 900 ships in China’s long-sea fleets. However, these will only be those that are officially declared. On the other hand, the other 2,000 “invisible” ships operating off the coast of China to collect large quantities of fish without being tracked are creating fear. Total Chinese catches currently stand at 14-16 million tonnes, of which 3-4 million tonnes come from deep-sea fisheries, particularly the waters off West Africa and western South America. Considering that the European offshore fleet only has 259 ships, these ships are a source of competition and a David and Goliath challenge for EU Member States. Beyond numbers, there is a modality issue. According to the researchers, while ships from bloc countries must comply with strict regulations regarding catch quantities and types and agreements to support local fishing communities, China’s deep-sea fleet works more advantageously by not being subject to it. limitations. The sustainability of the fish would not be a priority for the government led by Xi Jinping.

a hungry population

Mussels, bivalves, and oysters are typical of the Chinese coast, but increasing wealth in recent years has driven the population to put more and more fish on the table and demand the most diverse species. As a result, national fish stocks dried up. To make up for this, Beijing has relied on farms to become the main importer of fishmeal, the feed needed for aquaculture, while shipping hundreds of ships to overseas oceans. The main countries that meet the feed demand are some West African countries such as Senegal, but here Chinese demands create imbalances in local nutrition. Exporting fishmeal mills often use tons of small fish consumed by the population. Another fundamental change in the transition period concerns the shift of the People’s Republic’s fish industry from a converter and exporter of primary products such as fillets to hoarding high-quality aquaculture for domestic consumption. The decisive role of “invisible” ships is to satisfy the increasingly large and demanding national market.

Ships blacked out

Chinese offshore fleets thus cross oceans to recover valuable species and catch large quantities of fish that cannot be found in their national waters. What causes the discrepancy between visible and “invisible” ships? There are various factors. The study underlines that transshipment activities in regions such as Peru and Ecuador are mainly carried out by rock ships flying the flags of third countries, notably Panama, a country known for concealing the true ownership of ships. Another reason is that Chinese ships operating in southern Japan and around the Korean peninsula are generally not counted in Beijing’s long-haul fleets, although there are more than 2,000 ships in number. The lack of transparency is a problem not only in terms of the number of ships and their catches, but also in terms of subsidies. The research team emphasizes that Chinese fleets operating in Mauritania and Senegal “receive high levels of subsidies from the Chinese government.” Those operating in Madagascar, Mauritius, Ecuador and the Solomon Islands do not provide clear information on any government aid. All these factors will facilitate illegal fishing practices.

How do you defend yourself?

In recent years, the European Union has signed partnership agreements with many countries to facilitate cooperation and dialogue at sea. He envisioned a specific bilateral agreement with China, but this would be weakened by individual agreements between Beijing and some member states. These agreements cannot prevent the depletion of fish stocks, environmental degradation and unfair competition practices brought by “invisible” ships. Scientists make various suggestions to the European Union to stop Chinese domination. Brussels, for example, should encourage seafood companies to seek primary processing partners outside of China and recommend that countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia and South Asia take advantage of “skilled but cheaper labor”. Alternatives may also be in Africa and Latin America. Another document concerns the conservation of fish stocks of interest to Europeans, particularly with regard to tuna from the Western Pacific. In contrast, member states should avoid “negotiating individual agreements” to focus instead on cooperation with European institutions. Finally, they suggest reminding Chinese negotiators that predatory and overexploitative practices go against the “ecological century” proclaimed by the Beijing government. More collaboration and less competition.

Source: Today IT

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