China and many countries are greatly underreporting how much they take from Earth’s oceans

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      Chinese fishing vessels are catching 12 times more than they are reporting annually, a study published today by researchers at the University of British Columbia has found.

      “Chinese fishing boats catch about US$11.5 billion worth of fish from beyond their country’s own waters each year,” states a media release. “Most of it goes unreported.”

      In a telephone interview with the Straight, Dirk Zeller, a senior research fellow at the UBC Fisheries Centre and one of study’s co-authors, said that the problem is the size of China’s fishing fleets coupled with Beijing’s reluctance to publicize the details of its deals with other governments.

      But he was quick to emphasize that while UBC’s investigation focused on China, many countries are lowballing estimates for how much their fleets haul in.

      “China is not alone in this,” Zeller said. “Basically, every country in the world underreports its catch.”

      He argued that this relates directly to problems of overfishing and the depletion of fish stocks “at the most fundamental level.”

      “If we don’t know how much we are actually taking, how can we ever figure out what is sustainable?” Zeller asked. “Countries need to be more transparent and more accountable about their activities.”

      A study conducted by UBC researchers has mapped where Chinese fleets are fishing the world's oceans.

      The majority of China’s overseas fishing is happening in West Africa. According to the UBC study, Chinese fishing vessels removed an annual average of 2.9 million tonnes of catch worth $7.15 billion from East African waters every year from 2000-11. The region therefore account for 64 percent of Chinese fishing activities outside national waters.

      Zeller said that there are a number of explanations for why there is so much activity in West Africa.

      The countries that make up Africa’s west coast are relatively poor, which makes it easier for richer nations to negotiate deals in their favour, he explained. Impoverished and less-developed governments mean there are fewer regulations, and also less enforcement of what rules do exist. Finally, many other areas of the world’s oceans are already overfished and simply have less left there to catch.

      “Europe, in the 1980s, tried to push their vessels to go and fish overseas because their own waters were already overfished,” Zeller noted. He said that European vessels have been very active in West Africa ever since, and have also moved into areas off the coast of East Africa and throughout the Indian Ocean. Oceania and the Pacific Ocean will inevitably be next, he predicted.

      “They are working their way around the word and wherever they go, they are reducing the populations and fishing down the available stocks,” Zeller warned. “It is like a big industrial factory that goes around the world and fishes everything out. And it is not just Europe, it is not just China, it is not just Japan; it is all of them together.”

      A summary of the research team’s findings is available here.

      Comments

      7 Comments

      realist

      Apr 3, 2013 at 7:37pm

      In war and business, Chinese take delight in the art of deception

      Natty

      Apr 3, 2013 at 9:56pm

      The level of corruption and immorality in China at both business and government level, never fails to boggle the mind.

      Anti-hypocrisy

      Apr 4, 2013 at 2:04am

      @Natty,

      What you say is applicable to the West more than it does to China.

      The reason you didn't hear about illegal fishing before is because the West was doing this almost exclusively. There were no other powerful countries to compete with them.

      And therefore it is in the interest of the Western media to keep quiet.

      Now that China is competing with the West in this practice, all of a sudden all the Western media are reporting about illegal fishing.

      Lee L.

      Apr 4, 2013 at 11:09am

      Hmmm...
      Went to Save-On-Foods the other day ( you know the BIG Green box store) where there was Pacific Wile Salmon on special in an open freezer as you walk through the door. Western Family brand, it was, and as I read the label, in fine print, it was marked Product of China.

      Huh? We are digesting the Cohen report on the demise of our salmon stocks, yet the Chinese are offering Wild Pacific Salmon for sale to us?

      It has been since the 60s when the Taiwanese factory ships showed up near the Bering Sea that the Chinese have been plundering fish stocks that spawn here on the West coast, with nothing done to stop them.

      Can't bloody wait....

      Apr 5, 2013 at 2:29am

      ... for these folks to be the world's superpower. We are doomed

      West Coaster

      Apr 5, 2013 at 9:42am

      Borderline criminal Corporations and Countries dress up ruining the planet with bullshit like the Enbridge ride for cancer and panda bears!
      I can't believe we want to aid China with our oil to put the last few nails in the planet's coffin.

      Lawrence

      Apr 5, 2013 at 10:04am

      The will be a day when we will all pay the price in a big way of exploiting the earths resources. It may be that the countries with the largest populations will pay the largest price in population reduction.