Fisheries around the world are facing collapse. This unrelenting demand results in an irrational competition to see who can fish the last fish. As reported in the New York Times, experts now agree that 90% of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited or facing collapse. (photo – reefs.com)
China has an exploding middle class with a growing appetite for fish. China also has the world’s largest fleet of deep-sea fishing boats making it a leading player in the demise of the ocean’s resources.
China Looks to Other Oceans to Over-fish
We recently reported on the demise of fisheries in the South China Sea, see: South China Sea on the Brink of Disaster, however, it is clear that China’s impact on fisheries is not limited to its near seas but stretches around the world.
“Your net would be so full of fish, you could barely heave it onto the boat,” said Mamadou So, as he surveys his meager catch off the coast of Senegal in West Africa. (photo – NY Times)
World’s Largest Fishing Fleet!
China’s armada of long-distance fishing vessels has now swollen to nearly 2,600 vessels (the U.S. in comparison has fewer than one-tenth that number). These ships are so large and voracious that they can scoop up in one week, as many fish as a Senegalese fishing boat can catch in a year. And now these ships are seen most often off the coast of West Africa at a cost of $2 billion to West African economies. It is estimated that 65% of these ships are engaged in fishing practices that contravenes national and international maritime law. (photo – Greenpeace)
China’s Demand for Fish is Subsidized
Many of these Chinese vessels are built with subsidies from the Chinese government, that also finances their lengthy fishing journeys to West Africa. All done by a government more concerned with their own food security and unemployment than by the consequences of the illegal exploitation of another nation’s ocean resources.
But for Senegal, an impoverished nation with a population of 14 million, the consequences of plummeting fish stocks are devastating. Senegalese fishermen fish to feed their families, while much of the catch from China’s mega trawlers is destined for fish-meal fodder for chickens and pigs. (photo – Ponomarev-NYTimes)
An Unprecedented Crisis
“We are facing an unprecedented crisis,” said Alassane Samba, of Senegal’s oceanic research institute. “If things keep going the way they are, people will have to eat jellyfish to survive.”
The Chinese expansion of their international reach has not gone unchallenged. Indonesia has impounded numerous Chinese fishing boats caught poaching in Indonesian waters. Last March, authorities in Argentina sank a Chinese vessel that attempted to ram an Argentinian coast guard boat. A half dozen people are dead as a result of clashes between Chinese fishermen and South Koreans, and tensions continue to rise between the Chinese and the Philippines and Vietnam over fishing rights. (photo – Chinese fishing boast being chased from South Korean waters, Getty)
Plus see these related articles on the problem of over-fishing and finding a path to sustainable fishing:
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