Fishing activities of the Chinese fleet in the South Atlantic Ocean increase eightfold

The fishing effort (fishing hours per vessel in a given period) of the Chinese fleet in the South Atlantic has increased eight-fold in the past ten years. This was one of the findings of the Argentine environmental organization Círculo de Políticas Ambientales (CPA) based on satellite data from the Global Fishing Watch platform.

The CPA study measured “apparent fishing effort,” which is calculated from the ships’ speed and maneuvers. The conclusion is that over the past 10 years, fishing activities in the Chinese fishing fleet have increased from 59,204 hours in 2013 to 469,912 hours in 2022.

“The study shows a general trend of unreasonable and wanton growth in fishing effort, which no marine ecosystem can afford,” said Milko Schwartzman, an ecologist and illegal fishing expert and one of the study’s authors. a dialogue. “More alarmingly, the Chinese government itself reports that it is catching less despite increased efforts.”

The aforementioned document was published by the Ocean Development Bureau in Weihai, China, on November 12, 2019. “In recent years, the number of fishing vessels operating on the high seas in the southwest Atlantic has continued to increase and squid production has continued to rise. The official Chinese document says. “However, there are abundant fish resources in Argentina’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.”

According to Schwartzman, the decline in catches despite increased Chinese fishing efforts is “a clear sign that the ecosystem is in a state of overexploitation.”

Illegal maneuvers

International law stipulates that countries have control over waters within 200 nautical miles around their coasts. Chinese vessels fish at a distance of about 201 miles, at the border of a country’s exclusive economic zone, in international waters. But “hundreds of these vessels are using various maneuvers to cross that limit and continue fishing outside the permitted area, without the Chinese authorities implementing any effective punishment so far,” according to the Argentine news site. information mentioned.

The CPA noted in its study that the Chinese fishing fleet “does not enjoy any kind of oversight and does not respect the species’ breeding seasons.” Among the species caught are elephant seals, sea lions, dolphins, sharks and rays. The NGO noted that some are protected due to their vulnerable status. “These (Chinese) vessels are also active, generating very high levels of polluting discharges and using forced labor,” the CPA added.

Beijing supports the operation of China’s far-water fishing fleet through measures such as fuel subsidies or through state shareholding in companies that own the vessels, and the Argentine business platform. iProfessional mentioned.

“The lack of data on catch sizes and types, as well as the lack of bycatch information, could serve as a warning that the marine ecosystem has been pushed to its limits, without being able to have a minimum forecast of when this might happen.” “. The CPA said in its report that collapse would occur and be avoided.

More hours of fishing

The number of fishing vessels arriving in the southwest Atlantic from other latitudes, especially from China, has increased five-fold in the past decade, according to the CPA report. “In 2013, 74 ships flying the Chinese flag were counted, reaching 346 in 2022, a decline compared to the 2021 peak of 429 units,” the study says. “Despite estimates of a decline in the number of vessels in the last survey period, fishing effort has continued to increase.”

This means that there are fewer ships, but they spend more hours fishing. “It’s longer hours than when there were more boats,” Schwartzman said. Chinese fishing fleet vessels use hundreds of lights to attract squid to the surface. The effect is a floating city traveling along the coast of South America.

Every year, the night sky of the Argentine maritime region is lit up by the far-water fishing fleet of China, the world’s largest criminal of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, InSight Crime, an organization specializing in organized crime in Latin America and the United States. Caribbean said in an August 2022 report.

The tracking system is down

Fishing effort can be calculated thanks to transmissions from automatic identification systems (AIS). These devices automatically provide information about the ship to other ships and coastal authorities, the Argentine Maritime Conservancy notes on its website.

Since 2000, under an IMO decision, large fishing vessels must be equipped with AIS and kept in operation. However, many Chinese ships turn off their automatic identification system at about 201 miles away, to hide their true location.

“Not all vessels maintain their AIS at all times, so there may be undetected fishing effort, as well as the presence of an undetected vessel,” the CPA study says. As such, Schwartzman explains that the study’s conclusions are conservative. “There are definitely more fishing hours (for Chinese vessels),” the expert said.

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