Chinese fleet takes 12 times more fish than it reports
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Illegal fishing is a persistent problem, but it appears that China has elevated it to a new level, catching about 12 times more fish than it formally reports to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, an international agency that keeps track of global fisheries catches.
Overall, Chinese fishing boats catch about US$11.5 billion worth of fish from beyond their country’s own waters each year according to a new study led by fisheries scientists at the University of British Columbia.
“China hasn’t been forthcoming about its fisheries catches,” said Dirk Zeller, a senior research fellow with UBC’s Sea Around Us Project and the study’s co-author. “While not reporting catches doesn’t necessarily mean the fishing is illegal … we simply don’t know for sure as this information just isn’t available,” Zeller said, explaining that there could be agreements between China and other countries that allow unreported fishing.
The study analyzed the type of fishing vessels used by Chinese operators around the world and their catch capacity, estimating Chinese foreign fishing at 4.6 million tons per year, taken from the waters of at least 90 countries — including 3.1 million tons from African waters, mainly West Africa.
“We need to know how many fish have been taken from the ocean in order to figure out what we can catch in the future,” said Daniel Pauly, principal investigator of UBC’s Sea Around Us Project and the study’s lead author.
“Countries need to realize the importance of accurately recording and reporting their catches and step up to the plate, or there will be no fish left for our children.”
To calculate a more realistic value of the Chinese foreign catches, the team of 20 researchers used a new method consisting of analyzing scholarly articles, news reports and expert knowledge to estimate the number and types of Chinese vessels fishing in other countries’ waters. This information is then combined with published data on the amount of catch per vessel type to estimate total catch.
While the new method contains uncertainties, it provides crucial information when official reports alone are insufficient or untrustworthy. It may soon be used to calculate the catches of other countries that fish around the world, such as Spain. Foreign catch information offers a valuable resource for fisheries managers, particularly in developing nations, where most of the foreign fishing occurs.
The paper was recently published in the journal Fish and Fisheries.