CHINA ISSUES NEW SUSTAINABILITY RULES
China issues new sustainability rules for its fishing fleet, states an article on the Mongabay website.
- China has made the first major revisions to regulations governing its distant-water fishing fleet in 17 years.
- The new rules aim to curb illegal activity, increase transparency and improve sustainability in commercial fishing.
- As dominant nation in the global fishing industry, yet ranked worst for fishing offenses, China could have a huge positive impact through the new rules — if it enforces them, experts say.
For years, reports of illegal fishing activities have dogged China’s distant-water fishing fleet. Now, China is significantly tightening regulations governing these vessels for the first time in 17 years, with a slew of new rules taking effect throughout 2020, including harsher penalties for captains and companies found to have broken the law.
Estimated at a minimum of 2,900 vessels, the country’s distant-water fleet, active outside its maritime borders, dwarfs that of other nations. Since 2003 it has grown by at least 1,000 boats and doubled its reported annual catch.
The rule changes include revisions to the Distant-Water Fishing Management Regulations, new Management Measures for High Seas Squid Fishery and a new Rule for High Seas Trans shipment released earlier this year; as well as a revision to the Administrative Measures of the Vessel Monitoring System released in 2019. They all take effect between January 2020 and January 2021. Leaving less space for illegal activities, the changes are geared toward increasing transparency and promoting more sustainable practices.
“China is the country that will shape what the future of ocean health becomes,” said Douglas McCauley, professor of marine biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “No other nation has more say as to what will become of the future of our ocean.”
The country hauls in around 15% of the world’s reported wild fish catch, according to a 2020 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report. Discrepancies in reported fish catches and lack of transparency over fleet sizes globally mean no one really knows how much seafood humans remove from the ocean. But studies indicate an alarming drop in marine fish and invertebrate populations over the past 50 years.
More than a third of the planet’s fish stocks are overfished to biologically unsustainable levels, the FAO report said, with a further 60% of stocks fished to the sustainable maximum. Those numbers have far-reaching implications not only for marine ecosystems but for humans: fisheries provide direct employment for almost 60 million people globally and around 20% of essential protein intake for more than 3 billion people, according to the report.
China has previously signalled its intent to promote sustainable fishing practices. In 2017, the country pledged to cap its distant-water fleet at 3,000 vessels by 2020 and outlined comprehensive intentions in its 13th Five-Year Plan for the Development of Distant-Water Fishery. However, it has taken little concrete action until now.
Image © Pierre Gleizes / Greenpeace.