Promote more sustainable fisheries

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, May 29, 2012
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The ever-increasing number of fishing disputes with neighboring nations in recent years has highlighted the need to strengthen the management of China's fisheries.

As China's fishermen have extended their fishing activities deeper into surrounding sea areas, the number of the clashes between them and the coastguards of the Republic of Korea, Japan, the Philippines and other neighboring nations has increased.

Media reports indicate that the ROK's maritime authorities alone detained about 2,600 Chinese fishing boats and 800 fishermen between 2006 and 2011 on the charge of "illegal encroachment" in the waters under their jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, the seriousness of clashes between Chinese fisherman and the coastguards of other countries is also increasing. On April 19, a ROK court sentenced Cheng Dawei, the captain of a Chinese fishing boat, to 30 years in jail for stabbing to death a member of the ROK coastguard in December. And in another recent violent incident, the police of Palau, an island nation in the western Pacific Ocean, shot at a Chinese fishing boat engaged in fishing activities in Palauan maritime waters, killing one of the fishermen.

The increasing cases of fishing disputes with neighboring countries in the ever-expanding fishing waters are a reflection of the dilemma facing China's fisheries, as well as a result of escalating sovereign disputes between China and some neighboring nations over maritime area.

The Chinese government urgently needs to pay more attention to the management of its fisheries and address the reasons for the increasing number of disputes involving its fishermen and fully support them when necessary.

Despite possessing more than 18,000 kilometers of coastline, China does not have abundant marine resources. China's per capita sea area ranks 122nd in the world, and its per capita fishery resources are only 30 percent of the world average.

Worse, the already limited coastal marine resources continue to decrease due to development pressures and pollution. The harmful effects of these activities are exacerbated by accidents, such as the explosion in oil pipelines near Dalian, a coastal city in northeast China in 2010, and the ConocoPhillips oil leaks in the Bohai Sea in the summer of 2011. The two incidents had a catastrophic impact on the species in the surrounding waters and the marine and coastal ecosystems.

The ever-growing threat of pollution to China's continental shelf areas, where there are concentrations of fish, has also exacerbated the dwindling of its inshore fishery resources. Besides, the all-inclusive fishing method employed by many Chinese fishermen, together with their failure to implement the annual government fishing bans, has contributed to the extinction of some fish in China's coastal waters and the depletion of its inshore fishery resources.

Dwindling coastal marine resources mean local fishermen have to venture further out to sea to catch fish, which is likely to cause them to trespass into other countries' maritime areas and spark disputes.

Over-fishing and over-exploitation of maritime resources have also accelerated the decline of China's fish resources and threaten the sustainable development of its fishing industry. With less fish to catch, fishermen employ more exhaustive techniques that create a vicious cycle further depleting fish stocks. In some extreme cases, some fishermen have reportedly used illegal fishing methods such as blasting and cyanide poisoning, which degrades fish stocks and coral habitats.

Yet despite its limited coastal marine resources China's fishing fleet is continuing to grow and it is estimated that it now surpasses 300,000 boats.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations formulated the voluntary Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, which points out the right to fish carries with it the obligation to do so in a responsible manner. Fisheries management should promote the maintenance of fishery resources and ensure the conservation, not only of commercially important species of fish and shellfish, but also species belonging to the same ecosystem or associated with or dependent upon the target species.

Coastal and ocean areas need to be managed sustainably and responsible fishing and fisheries activities enforced.

In a move to improve its fishing environment, China should increase the cultivation of fish fry in inshore maritime waters to improve their sustainable production. Illegal fishing methods must be eradicated and the catching fry of aquatic animals of important economic value should be strictly prohibited. At the same time, more effective monitoring and punitive measures should be put in place to ensure the implementation of the Fisheries Law and fishing bans.

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