China’s exploitation of the world’s fish stocks is far greater than previously thought, with research showing the country has more than 12,000 vessels fishing beyond its waters, three times more than previous estimates.
The Chinese fleet is the biggest contributor to the “global fisheries crisis”, which has resulted in two thirds of the world’s commercial stocks being overfished or fished to the limit, according to a report by the Overseas Development Institute, a think tank.
China consumes more than a third of fish caught globally and is targeting the high seas or waters belonging to other countries after depleting its own stocks, the report says. At least 183 of the Chinese “distant water” vessels — those that fish outside national waters — have been found to be involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, it adds.
The study identified 1,821 of the Chinese vessels as trawlers, many of which are suspected of carrying out bottom trawling, a particularly destructive fishing technique.
Almost 1,000 of the vessels were found to be registered overseas, with 518 flying the flags of African nations. The report suggests that China is taking advantage of poor governance in developing countries by getting them to sign fisheries agreements that allow unsustainable levels of fishing in their waters.