China under scrutiny over fishing practices
China is a major contributor to global illegal, unreported, and unregulated (I.U.U) fishing, according to a United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission report.
In the Pacific, fisheries access fees paid by foreign fishing vessels are significant sources of government revenue in several Pacific Island countries.
This is not the case in recent years as local tuna fishing vessels are exiting the industry because of increasing competition with subsidised Chinese vessels, declining catches, and depressed tuna prices over the past five years, the report said.
China has the largest distant water fishing fleet – vessels operating outside Chinese waters – with the size of its distant water fishing fleet increasing from 1,830 to 2,460 vessels from 2012-2014, the report added.
“The industry’s growth has been fueled by tax exemptions and a network of central and local government subsidies. According to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, 418 Chinese tuna fishing vessels operated in the West Central Pacific Ocean in 2016, up from 244 such vessels in 2010.
“China underreports the catch of its distant water fleets and estimated the catch of China’s distant water fleet was 4.6 million metric tons per year between 2000 and 2011, amount 12 times more than the amount it reporters; in Oceania, that amount was 198,000 metric tons per years.
“Activities and fleets are almost completely undocumented and unreported, and often, maybe illegal, thus spanning the entire gamut of I.U.U. fishing.”
The report further stated the Chinese Government has taken some steps to deter illegal fishing activity in the Western Central Pacific Ocean by fining and terminating the licenses of Chinese companies found to have fished without authorisation.
Quoting a 2016 report prepared by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, the report estimated: “the total value of illegally harvested or transshipped tuna at about $616 million a year. This amounts to more than 12 percent of the $5 billion in dock value Pacific generated in 2014, a significant loss for Pacific Island countries.”