Beijing has lashed back at the US’s designation of China for illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, as “a complete political manipulation” and pointed out that US fishing vessels are also responsible for overfishing tuna and other violations.
Last week the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its 2023 Report to Congress on Improving International Fisheries Management, in which the US designated China as one of the seven nations and entities for IUU fishing.
There is nothing new about such allegations.
Eight of the 10 companies responsible for nearly 25 percent of known illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing are from China. That’s according to a January, 2023 recent report by the Financial Transparency Coalition (FTC), a global network of civil society, governments, and experts.
According to the study, China and its state-owned companies have the world’s largest fishing fleet operating in distant waters, with at least 3,000 vessels. The illegal activity moves up to some $23.5 billion a year, with total economic losses estimated at $50 billion. “This makes IUU fishing the third most lucrative natural resource crime after timber [exploitation] and mining,” says the FTC report released in the last quarter of 2022.
Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to the Chinese fleet’s illegal activities. “IUU fishing in Argentine territorial waters is estimated to account for between $1 billion and $2.6 billion per year. Considering that Argentina’s annual bottled wine exports were valued at $817 million in 2021, IUU fishing is more than twice the size of Argentina’s wine industry,” the report says.
The report goes on to discuss more details: Why is it that the vast majority of companies carrying out IUU fishing are Chinese?
“One issue is quantitative. The largest distant water fleet is Chinese. There are more than 3,000 vessels that go around the world, of which between 600 and 700 are on the edges of South American seas,” Milko Schvartzman, an Argentine specialist in marine conservation and member of the nongovernmental organization Círculo de Políticas Ambientales, told Diálogo.
“The other reason is qualitative. Chinese vessels are not only more numerous, but they also engage in a higher percentage of illegal fishing. And almost the totality of the Chinese fleet engages in poaching, that is unregulated and unreported fishing,” Schvartzman said.
According to the expert, these Chinese vessels operate in areas where there are no regulations or fish unregulated species in regulated areas. In addition, they do not comply with any international standards for labor norms or navigational safety.
“They are vessels that turn off the satellite tracker, which is the AIS [Automatic Identification System] so that they aren’t detected. And they are the ones that do the most illegal fishing in the world. So it is the fleet with the worst behavior and the most massive,” Schvartzman said.
Nevertheless the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ms. Mao complained bitterly arguing the US made a general identification and determination of a country based on the illegal fishing activities of individual fishing vessels, which has no legal basis, seriously disrupting the order of international fisheries cooperation.
In other words, she claimed that the illegal fishing was carried out by rogue fisherman, but certainly was not supported or sponsored in any way by China.
She said that that China is a rvery esponsible country that attaches great importance to the scientific conservation and sustainable utilization of fishery resources.
According to relevant international laws such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, China exercises its rights to develop and utilize offshore fishery resources, and actively fulfills international obligations, said Mao.
China also has a sound management system for distant water fisheries, implements the strictest measures for monitoring and managing fishing vessel positions globally, and takes the lead in voluntarily implementing fishing moratoriums in certain high seas areas, Mao added. “Additionally, Mao noted that China works together with the international community to target IUU fishing.”
“China has joined eight regional fisheries management organizations, including the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, and has consistently ranked among the top performers in these organizations,” Mao added.
However, the US has long violated international laws in the Central and Western Pacific Ocean by overfishing tuna beyond quotas, and the country was also found to have engaged in up to 13 suspected IUU fishing activities at the recent annual meeting of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, said Mao.
Those activities involved the indiscriminate fishing of whale sharks and turtles, with the US responsible for the highest number of violations among all members, according to Mao.
“Before the US side unreasonably accuses other countries of engaging in so-called illegal fishing, it should first carefully examine itself and seriously consider how to address the issue of illegal fishing by its own fishing vessels,” Mao concluded.
Sources: Global Times, MercoPress.dialogoamericas.com