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World China's maritime fleet uses predatory fishing practices to feast on smaller countries

14:56  16 june  2021
14:56  16 june  2021 Source:   washingtonexaminer.com

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a large ship in the water © Provided by Washington Examiner

China has spent decades overfishing its waters and decimating its sea life. Now, with nowhere left to go, the country's massive fishing fleet has pushed itself into international waters and at times resorted to predatory (and illegal) fishing practices in other countries' coastal domains.

China typically targets small nations that can't defend themselves or lack the resources to put up much of a fight.

The East Asian behemoth has gotten away with so much of this activity that it fishes as though the rules don't apply to them, and to this day, it sends its massive floating militia into protected coastal waters.

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In 2010, the European Union implemented an indirect enforcement system to curb overfishing that has proven effective in prompting sweeping changes in countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam. But China, which has carried out the lion's share of overfishing and has a documented track record of bad maritime behavior, has pretty much gotten off scot-free.

Not facing consequences has only emboldened Beijing's quest for maritime domination.

"China will continue to take fish until the international community imposes costs of illegal fishing," foreign relations expert Gordon Chang told the Washington Examiner. "So far, countries have shown great reluctance to protect their waters. So, yes, the Chinese are criminals, but we allow them to be."

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China has not only overfished the hotly contested South China Sea, but its vessels have also been spotted as far as Africa and Central America.

The country's fishing fleet has been known to go into protected waterways in the dead of night, lower their identifying flags, turn off equipment to avoid detection, and take fish.

China is ranked as the world’s worst nation in the 2019 Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Index and is regularly implicated in overfishing, targeting of endangered shark species, illegal intrusion of jurisdiction, and false licensing and catch documentation, as well as forced labor.

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Some of the most egregious acts include fishing in the Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Pacific Ocean about 605 miles off the west coast of South America.

The islands, forged of lava and geographically isolated for thousands of years, are an oasis of ocean biodiversity with more than 20% of its marine species found nowhere else on earth.

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So, it was noteworthy when a vast armada of Chinese fishing vessels just off the islands logged a staggering 73,000 hours of fishing during just one month and pulled up thousands of tons of squid that are essential to the diet of Galapagos fur seals and endangered scalloped hammerhead sharks. China also scooped up tons of tuna and billfish that contribute to the local economy, according to an analysis by marine conservation group Oceana.

Nearly 300 Chinese vessels accounted for 99% of visible fishing just outside the archipelago's waters in one month.

Using a mapping tool, Oceana also found some vessels engaging in "suspect transshipment practices," all of which can facilitate illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

"This massive and ongoing fishing effort of China’s fleet threatens the Galápagos Islands, the rare species that only call it home and everyone that depends on it for food and livelihoods,” Marla Valentine, an illegal fishing and transparency analyst for Oceana, said.

China has also made its presence known in Sierra Leone, an African country still recovering from a lengthy civil war.

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China accounts for 75% of Sierra Leone's industrial fleet, with one trawler pulling in up to 100 tons of fish a day. But it's the illegal, unchecked vessels that are doing the most damage.

Catches are going undetected because not all boats are fitted with tracking technology, and Sierra Leone lacks the resources to enforce any regulations, with just a single boat responsible for monitoring 400,000 square miles. The illegal fishing activity is also taking a chunk out of the developing nation's economy and preventing locals from building their own industry.

Sierra Leone has the potential to bring in more than $50 million a year from its fishing industry but ends up with about $18 million due to illegal fishing and lack of enforcement, China Dialogue Ocean reported.

China's fishing fleet has also targeted Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Chinese vessels along South America's Pacific coast have been accused of disabling their public tracking devices and engaging in potentially suspect practices, Oceana reported in 2020. In November, the countries issued a joint statement announcing they would combine their limited resources to "prevent, discourage, and jointly confront" any illegal fishing operations.

Flaring tensions in the South China Sea between Beijing and the Philippines have threatened the survival of Filipino fishermen for several years. Members of BIGKIS, a collective of fishermen from the country's northern fishing provinces, have said that Chinese fishing vessels have been pushed their way into the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone and hampered their fishing activities.

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In an act of defiance, the Philippine government took a big step in opposing China by telling its vast fishing fleet last month to ignore Beijing’s annual fishing ban in the South China Sea. China and the Philippines, along with four other countries, are locked in a heated sovereignty dispute over the contested waters.

The Philippines's South China Sea task force declared that the fishing moratorium "does not apply to our fishermen," the Philippine Star reported.

China is also getting some surprising pushback from smaller islands in the South China Sea.

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The Republic of Palau, a Pacific island nation-ally of Taiwan, has not only irritated Beijing with its ties to Taiwan, but also angered China after it detained one of its fishing vessels and six smaller boats in 2019. Officials in Palau have accused Chinese boats of harvesting sea cucumbers in its territorial waters.

Earlier this year, two Chinese fishing vessels were seized by authorities in Vanuatu for allegedly fishing illegally in the island nation's waters near the remote Torres Islands. Vanuatu's department of fisheries, the police maritime wing, and a French naval reconnaissance plane monitored the Chinese ships before they were detained.

Tags: News, China, South China Sea, Fishing, Pacific Ocean, Africa, France, Food and Beverage, South America, Foreign Policy

Original Author: Barnini Chakraborty

Original Location: China's maritime fleet uses predatory fishing practices to feast on smaller countries

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