China’s fishing operations raise alarms around the world

Chinese fishing circles appear
In 2020 and 2021.

Ecologically rich and diverse, the water around Galapagos Islands It has attracted local fishermen for centuries. Now, these waters are facing a larger and more greedy fisherman: China.

Chinese fishing in ⬤ 2020 And the 2021.

The Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador. However, every year increasing numbers of Chinese merchant ships, thousands of miles from home, fish here, sometimes on the edge of Ecuador. exclusive economic zone.

Chinese ships have been operating since 2016 off South America almost all day, all year round, moving with the seasons from the coasts of Ecuador to Peru

… and in the end to ArgentinaThey fished en masse for more than 16,000 days this year.

The scale has raised alarms about the damage to local economies and the environment, as well as the commercial sustainability of tuna, squid and other species.

Note: Data for 2020 runs from June 2020 through May 2021; For 2021, from June 2021 through May 2022.

Over the past two decades, China has built the world’s largest deepwater fishing fleet, by far, with nearly 3,000 vessels. Having severely depleted their stocks in its coastal waters, China now hunts in any ocean in the world, at a scale dwarfing the entire fleets of some countries near its waters.

The influence is being felt from the Indian Ocean to the South Pacific, from the coasts of Africa to those off South America – a manifestation of China’s global economic power on the high seas.

A Chinese ship fishes squid off the west coast of South America in July 2021.

Isaac Haslam/C Shepherd via The Associated Press

The Chinese effort sparked diplomatic and legal protests. The fleet has also been linked to illegal activity, including encroaching on other nations’ territorial waters, tolerating labor violations, and poaching endangered species. In 2017, Ecuador seized a refrigerated cargo ship, Fu Yuan Yu Ling 999, carrying an illegal shipment of 6,620 sharks, whose fins were a delicacy in China.

However, much of what China does is legal — or, on the open seas at least, largely unregulated. Given the growing demands of an increasingly prosperous consumer class in China, it is unlikely to end soon. This does not mean that it is sustainable.

In the summer of 2020, conservation group Oceana counted nearly 300 Chinese vessels operating near the Galapagos Islands, outside Ecuador’s exclusive economic zone, 200 nautical miles from its territory where it retains its rights to natural resources under the Law of the Sea Treaty. The ships hugged the area so tightly that satellite mapping of their positions traced the boundaries of the area.

Together, they make up nearly 99 percent of fishing near the Galapagos Islands. No other country has come close.

Fishing near the exclusive economic zones of Ecuador, Peru and Argentina

Note: “Other Countries” are 35 entities including South Korea, Spain and Taiwan. Data is for the high seas within 50 nautical miles (about 57 miles) of exclusive economic zones in Ecuador, Peru, and Argentina. Fishing activity near the disputed Falkland Islands exclusive economic zone has been omitted. Data for 2022 through May 31.

by The New York Times

“Our sea can no longer withstand this pressure,” said Alberto Andrade, a fisherman from the Galapagos Islands. He added that the presence of such a large number of Chinese ships made it more difficult for local fishermen within the territorial waters of Ecuador, according to UNESCO. World Heritage Site that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Mr. Andrade organized a group of fishermen, the island front of the Galapagos Marine Reserve, to demand expanded protection of fisheries around the islands.

“Industrial fleets are dredging up stocks, and we fear there will be no more fishing in the future,” he said. “Even the pandemic hasn’t stopped them.”

industrial effort

China can fish on such an industrial scale because of ships like High Feng 718a refrigerated cargo ship built in Japan in 1996. It is registered in Panama and operated by a company in Beijing called Zhongyu Global Seafood Corporation.

Owned by a state-owned enterprise: China National Fisheries Corporation.

Hai Feng 718 is known as the carrier or mother ship. It has refrigerated warehouses to keep tons of catches. It also carries fuel and other supplies for smaller ships that can offload and resupply their crews at sea. As a result, other ships do not need to spend time returning to port, which allows them to fish almost continuously.

Over the course of a year starting in June 2021, Hai Feng 718 met at least 70 small Chinese-flagged fishing vessels at various locations at sea, according to Global Fishing Watch, a research organization that collects location data from ships’ transponders. Each encounter, known as transshipment, represented the transport of tons of fish that smaller ships had to unload at a port hundreds of miles away.

Together, the ships followed the coasts of South America in what became a year-round pursuit of fishing.

Hai Feng 718 365-day itinerary

Meetings with Chinese fishing vessels

Note: Data is from June 2021 through May 2022.

by The New York Times

After leaving Weihai, a port city in China’s Shandong Province, Hai Feng 718 arrived in the Galapagos Islands in August 2021 and spent nearly a month in the waters off Ecuador’s exclusive economic zone. There he served several ships such as the Hebei 8588.

These ships are designed to catch squid, one of the awards of the fleet. The lights that ships use at night to attract squids to the surface are so bright they can be tracked from space.

A month later, the Chinese fleet traveled to the coast of Peru, where Hai Feng 718 set out on more than twenty small ships, some several times, including, again, the Hebei 8588.

The mother ship laden with the catch returned to China. By last December, it was back at sea again, this time heading west across the Indian Ocean. He arrived off the coast of Argentina to start the squid season there in January. In May, it was again off the coast of the Galapagos.

Ship routes encountered Haifeng 718 in one year

Ships that remained near the coast of South America

other ships

globe base map
Ship locations map in one year

Ship locations map in one year

Galapagos Islands




South America

Exclusive Economic Zones

Note: Data is from June 2021 through May 2022.

by The New York Times

These processes allowed for a boom in the squid harvest. Between 1990 and 2019, the number of deepwater squid boats increased from six to 528, while reported annual catches rose from about 5,000 tons to 278,000, according to the Report This year by Global Fishing Watch. In 2019, China acquired nearly all of the squid boats operating in the South Pacific.

Arranging the transfer of the catch to another vessel is not illegal, but according to experts, the use of parent vessels makes it easier to report the catch and hide its source. Other places also deploy deep-water fleets, including Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, but none do so on a China scale.

Hai Feng 718 alone has more than 500,000 cubic feet of cargo space, enough to carry thousands of tons of fish.

Transit allows fishing vessels to stay at sea all year round

Transport ships stand side by side, exchanging fuel, crew supplies and catches from fishing vessels. This allows fishing vessels to fish for longer periods.

Hold the fish where the fish


Barrier to keep safe

The distance between the ships

A winch to transport the catch from it

fishing vessel to carrier vessel

Hold the fish where the fish


Barrier to keep safe

The distance between the ships

A winch to transport the catch from it

fishing vessel to carrier vessel

Transferred between a squid fishing vessel and a cargo tanker in the northern Indian Ocean last year.

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

By The New York Times; Photo by Fernanda Legapo/Greenpeace

Global Fishing Watch has tracked dozens of unexplained “loitering events”, where large vessels remain in one area without any recorded meetings between tankers and smaller vessels. Experts warn that smaller vessels may turn off their transponders to avoid detection to conceal illegal or unregulated fishing.

It is difficult to measure exactly the impact on specific species such as squid off the coast of South America. In some areas, such as the South Pacific, international agreements require states to report their size, although under-reporting is thought to be common. In the South Atlantic, there is no such agreement.

There are already worrying signs of declining stocks, which could portend a broader environmental collapse.

“The concern is the sheer number of ships and the lack of accountability, of knowing how much is being caught and where it is going,” said Marla Valentine, oceanographer at Oceana, the conservation group. “And I worry that the effects that are happening now will carry over into the future.

“Because not only squid will be affected,” she added. “It will all be squid-fed, too.”

global reaction

The emergence of the Chinese fleet on the edge of the Galapagos Islands in 2020 has focused international attention on the industrial scale of the Chinese fishing fleet. Ecuador lodged a protest in Beijing. Its president at the time, Lenin Moreno, Pledge on Twitter To defend the marine sanctuary, which he called “the seed of life for the whole planet.”

China responded with offers of concessions. announced endowment on fishing in certain areas, although critics have pointed out that the restrictions apply to seasons when fish are not abundant. It has pledged to cap the size of its deep-water fleet, but not to shrink it, and to cut government subsidies to fishing companies, many of which are still state-owned or state-controlled.

In the year following the outrage over the Galapagos, the bulk of the Chinese fleet kept a greater distance from Ecuador’s exclusive economic zone. Otherwise, keep hunting as much as before.

A Chinese squid ship near the Galapagos Islands last year.

Joshua Goodman/The Associated Press

In Argentina, a group of environmentalists, backed by the Gallifrey Foundation, an ocean conservation organization, filed an injunction with the country’s Supreme Court last year in hopes of urging the government to do more to comply with its constitutional obligations to protect the environment. They plan to file a similar injunction in the coming months in Ecuador.

“We have a permanent Chinese fleet 200 miles from our coast,” said Pablo Ferrara, a lawyer and professor at the University of Salvador in Buenos Aires, referring to the distance covered by Argentina’s exclusive economic zone.

The Argentine Navy, which sank a Chinese fishing boat inside the area in 2016, has since announced that it will add four new patrol ships to step up enforcement efforts in its coastal waters.

The United States has also pledged to help small countries confront illegal and unregulated fishing practices in China. The US Coast Guard, which now considers this practice one of the biggest security threats in the oceans, has sent patrol ships to the South Pacific.

In July, President Biden issued National Security Memo Pledge to increase industry oversight. Vice President Kamala Harris spoke hands-on at a Pacific nations forum that month, and said the United States would triple U.S. assistance to help nations patrol their waters, Offer $60 million year for the next decade.

Such efforts may help in territorial waters, but they do little to constrain China’s fleet in the open seas. Worldwide fish consumption continues to rise, reaching a record level in 2019. Meanwhile, known stocks of most fish species continue to decline, according to Latest Report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

“The challenge is to convince China that it also has a need to ensure the long-term sustainability of ocean resources,” said Duncan Currie, an international environmental lawyer who advises the Deep Sea Conservation Alliance. “It won’t stay there forever.”

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