THE Chinese Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) is pulling the plug on three Chinese companies conducting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in West Africa. The ministry’s action demonstrates an increased intolerance by authorities towards Chinese vessels involved in IUU.
The MoA has cancelled the distant water fishing certificate of the Lian Run Pelagic Fishery Company. The company has had a poor record of IUU fishing for years and is facing a total shutdown of its entire distant water fishing operations involving 30 vessels in total. Also, the ministry has cancelled fuel subsidies for vessels belonging to two other major Chinese distant water fishing companies.
Last spring, vessels from all three companies were arrested in the West African region during a joint patrol between environmental campaign group Greenpeace and local fisheries inspectors. Evidence of various infringements including illegal nets, shark finning and fishing without licence were handed over by Greenpeace to West African and Chinese authorities and have now helped the Chinese Ministry in combating IUU carried out by Chinese distant water fishing vessels.
Pavel Klinckhamers, International Project Leader, West African Oceans, Greenpeace Netherlands, said, ‘Fish is an essential part of the diet for millions of people in West Africa. Only when local governments and fishing nations take strong action towards fisheries management and illegal fishing in the region can these resources and important ecosystems be safeguarded for future generations.’
China is currently taking measures to restrict 2900 distant water fishing vessels’ activities in their main fishing grounds. Since 2016, about € 90 million in subsidies for 264 fishing vessels belonging to 78 Chinese distant water fishing companies have been cancelled by the Chinese government. Three companies lost their certificates for distant water fishing, while 15 company owners and captains were blacklisted. Last year, China revised its Management Regulation on Distant Water Fishery and introduced stronger punishment measures against IUU.
Ibrahima Cisse, Greenpeace Africa Oceans Campaign Manager, said, ‘African governments’ initiatives against IUU fishing would be more efficient if they were to establish a system for sharing information on illegal vessels operating in their waters. Also, African governments must share this information with the flag states of the vessels that are breaching regulations as well as the countries where the companies behind the vessels are situated.’
Apart from arresting vessels in Guinean waters, Greenpeace also carried out joint patrols in Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone. Unfortunately, no information was handed over by West African countries to Chinese authorities on infringements by Chinese vessels in this region during the joint patrol. This makes it more difficult for flag states like China to act upon the wrongdoings of their vessels.