‘It’s terrifying’: can anyone stop China’s vast armada of fishing boats?

Ecuador stood up for the Galápagos, but other countries don’t stand a chance against the 17,000-strong distant-water fleet
An Ecuadorian navy vessels challenges a fishing boat on 7 August after a fleet of mostly Chinese-flagged ships were detected in the Pacific Ocean.
 An Ecuadorian navy vessels challenges a fishing boat on 7 August after a fleet of mostly Chinese-flagged ships were detected in the Pacific Ocean. Photograph: Santiago Arcos/Reuters

The recent discovery by the Ecuadorean navy of a vast fishing armada of 340 Chinese vessels just off the biodiverse Galápagos Islands stirred outrage both in Ecuador and overseas.

Under pressure after Ecuador’s strident response, China has given mixed signals that it could begin to reel in its vast international fishing fleet. Its embassy in Ecuador declared a “zero tolerance” policy towards illegal fishing, and this week it announced it was tightening the rules for its enormous flotilla with a series of new regulations.

But with 325 of those 340 ships remaining off Ecuador, and local navy commander Darwin Jarrín saying last week that nearly half of those vessels had intermittently switched off their satellite communications – breaching the rules of the regional fisheries management organisation – the episode has shown how difficult it is for small nations to stand up to China’s distant fleet even when it descends on the archipelago that inspired Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

China’s vast fishing fleet, by far the world’s largest, has been overfishing seas much further from the world’s gaze than the islands known for their giant tortoises and iguanas. From West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea to the Korean peninsula, the fleet has moved into the waters of other countries – switching off transponders to avoid detection, depleting fish stocks and threatening food security for often poor coastal communities. In east Asia, fishing vessels may act as the vanguard of an aggressive geopolitical strategy aimed at asserting territorial claims.

China’s new regulations this week include harsher penalties for companies and captains involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated – or IUU – fishing. But conservationists monitoring the Galápagos episode are sceptical.

The fleet is a vast and complex network. Among the hundreds of vessels are fuel providers, fishing boats, tender boats and reefers, some of which camouflage unregistered boats, Guerrero says. Many ships spend long periods at sea where shocking human rights violations have been reported.

NGO Global Fishing Watch and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) thinktank have used cutting-edge technology and data analysis to reveal that the size and scope of China’s distant-water fleet has been hugely underreported.

An Ecuadorian navy officer looks at a radar after the mostly Chinese-flagged fleet was detected in an international corridor that borders the Galápagos Islands.
 An Ecuadorian navy officer looks at a radar on 7 August after the mostly Chinese-flagged fleet was detected in an international corridor that borders the Galápagos Islands. Photograph: Santiago Arcos/Reuters

The ODI found the fleet had 16,966 vessels, five times more than previous estimates. By contrast, the US distant-water fleet comprises 300 boats.

In 2017, as part of its 13th fisheries five-year plan, China announced plans to cap the size of the fleet to 3,000 vessels by 2020.

“We were shocked by the results because we were expecting 4,000 or 5,000 vessels,” says Miren Gutiérrez, the lead author of the ODI report.

The research, which took more than a year, also found nearly 1,000 of the boats were using “flags of convenience” and at least 183 vessels were involved in suspected IUU fishing, for which China ranked the worst-performing nation in a 2019 global index.

“Most of this overfishing is not illegal, that’s the problem,” Gutiérrez says, as most of it goes on in international waters. Most of the fleet’s vessels are trawlers – banned within China’s territorial waters and notorious for damaging ecosystems by dragging nets along the seafloor. Other common boats are longliners, for larger fish such as tuna or shark, and squid-jiggers, which usually operate in deeper waters.

“To shift the dynamic there needs to be radical transparency,” says Philip Chou, an expert on distant-water fishing at Oceana, a marine conservation group. “So far, the evidence has not shown that [the Chinese government] has taken it further than rhetoric.”

China would need to open up about its catch, the real-time location of its fleets, the ownership of fishing vessels, and the opaque bilateral or regional agreements it has made with low-income coastal nations, Chou says. In west Africa, for example, a 2018 report by the Environmental Justice Foundation found 90% of Ghanaian-flagged vessels had Chinese involvement.

Protesters outside the Chinese embassy in Quito, Ecuador, earlier this month call for fisheries control.
 Protesters outside the Chinese embassy in Quito, Ecuador, earlier this month call for fisheries control. Photograph: José Jácome/EPA

The world’s biggest seafood exporter is also mooted to be planning to ratify the Port State Measures Agreement, the first internationally binding accord in which ports around the world pledge not to allow illegal or unregulated fishing boats to land catches.

China hauled up about 15% of the world’s reported fishing catch in 2018, according to the UN fisheries agency, more than twice the second- and third-ranking countries. But the lack of transparency means it is impossible to truly know how much seafood humans take from the ocean amid an alarming drop in marine life in the past half-century.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that illegal fishing has an annual cost of up to $23bn. The FAO also calculatesd that nearly 60 million people worked in fishing or aquaculture in 2016, 85% of them in Asia.

Ecuador is one of a few small nation states that have pushed back against the Chinese flotillas. In the hotly disputed South China Sea, Indonesia sent F-16 fighter jets along with navy, coastguard and fishing boats to repel 63 Chinese fishing boats and four coastguard vessels from its waters in January.

Ecuador’s defence minister, Oswaldo Jarrin, flanked by navy admirals, at a press conference, in the port city of Guayaquil, about the Chinese fleet operating near the Galápagos Islands.
 Ecuador’s defence minister, Oswaldo Jarrin, flanked by navy admirals, at a press conference, in the port city of Guayaquil, about the Chinese fleet operating near the Galápagos Islands. Photograph: Reuters

But North Korean fishing boats may have come off worse from exchanges with China’s “dark fleets”, amid reports of “ghost boats” washing up on Japanese shores containing the bodies of North Korean fishermen. In its backyard, the Chinese fleet has a fearsome reputation for systemic illegal fishing and aggressive tactics when faced with competitors or foreign patrol vessels.

China signed a key UN fish stocks agreement in 1996 but never ratified it. It is a member of seven regional fishery management organisations, or RFMOs, but its distant water fleet operates outside of those frameworks, says Mercedes Rosello, director of House of Ocean, a not-for-profit legal consultancy that monitors IUU fishing.

“When you are looking at thousands of vessels, the rules and mechanisms which that flag state adopts are of huge transcendence,” Rosello says.

The US, Japan, and the EU, which make up about 70% of the global seafood market, need to take proactive measures to disrupt IUU fish from Chinese vessels from entering international supply chains, says Trent.

“[Without] wholescale structural change by China and the system of global governance of the ocean to make sure the Chinese do abide by the law,” he says, the world’s fish stocks would continue their precipitous decline.

“The people who suffer first and worst are almost always the coastal communities who rely on those fisheries for their survival, wellbeing and food,” he says.

“Exactly what happens in the Galápagos [Islands] happens in locations around the world and it’s terrifying.”

Source: The Guardian “It’s terrifying’: can anyone stop China’s vast armada of fishing boats?”

Note: This is The Guardian’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

China in US Backyard 3: $250 Billion to Buy Popularity, Friendship

(Front seated L-R) Cuba's Minister of Foreign Trade Rodrigo Malmierca, Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, Costa Rica's Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez Sanz, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Director of National Development and Reform Commission Xu Shao Shi and Bahamas' Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell attend the First Ministerial Meeting of the Forum of China and the Community of Latin American and Carribean States

(Front seated L-R) Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Trade Rodrigo Malmierca, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez Sanz, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Director of National Development and Reform Commission Xu Shao Shi and Bahamas’ Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell attend the First Ministerial Meeting of the Forum of China and the Community of Latin American and Carribean States

Spend, spend, spend rather than buying bonds to get kids’ wish to kill all Chinese.

Moreover, quite much spending will be investment. Some of such investment is made in areas without satisfactory political stability and may perhaps not be recovered let alone getting any return to the investment. However, if China deals with the losses generously, the popularity and friendship or China’s influence in the area of investment will remain.

At least, Xi Jinping’s purchase of popularity and friendship is much better than Hu Jintao’s unrequited love of the US that ended in US pivot to Asia to encircle China.

In addition, this blogger has to point out that there is always risk in investment and generally speaking, the greater the risk, the bigger the return.

The following is the full text of Reuters report on Xi’s spending spree:

China’s Xi woos Latin America with $250 billion investments

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged on Thursday $250 billion in investment in Latin America over the next 10 years as part of a drive to boost resource-hungry China’s influence in a region long dominated by the United States.

Leaders of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC – a 33-country bloc that does not include the United States or Canada – gathered in Beijing for the first time for a two-day forum on Thursday.

Xi said two-way trade between China and Latin America was expected to rise to $500 billion in 10 years.

“This meeting will … give the world a positive signal about deepening cooperation between China and Latin America and have an important and far-reaching impact on promoting South-South cooperation and prosperity for the world,” Xi said.

China and Latin America are cooperating on energy, infrastructure construction, agriculture, manufacturing and technological innovation, Xi said.

Deng Yuwen, a Beijing-based political analyst, said China was interested in the region’s resources and markets.

“Obviously, China has the intention to compete with the U.S. for a greater sphere of influence in the region,” said Deng. “But whether this strategy will weaken U.S. influence now is hard to judge.”

Matt Ferchen, resident scholar at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, said China’s push would not alarm Washington with improving U.S.-Cuba ties set to boost U.S. influence.

“The reality of economic-social ties, people-to-people ties, between any country in the region and the United States are so much deeper than anything that exists with China,” Ferchen said.

“The Cuba deal changes everything in terms of how the United States can set a positive agenda in the region,” he said.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, is buying oil from Venezuela, copper from Peru and Chile, and soybean from Argentina and Brazil.

In return, China has invested billions of dollars.

On Wednesday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he had secured more than $20 billion in investment from China, while Ecuador said it obtained a total of $7.53 billion in credit lines and loans from China.

“To repeat what (former) President Hugo Chavez said, China is demonstrating to the world that a country does not necessarily seek hegemony as it grows stronger,” Maduro said in a speech.

The cooperation comes despite some in the region retaining diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province. Out of 22 states that recognize Taiwan, 12 of them are in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Source: Reuters “China’s Xi woos Latin America with $250 billion investments”

Related posts:

  • China Buying Popularity, Friendship Worldwide dated January 6
  • China in US Backyard Latin America dated January 7
  • China in Latin America 2: Nicaragua Canal Worries the US dated yesterday

White House presses Russia to expel Snowden; sharp words for China

The White House pressed Russia on Monday to exercise all options to expel Edward Snowden and slammed China for allowing the former U.S. spy agency contractor who disclosed government surveillance secrets to leave Hong Kong.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters it was the U.S. assumption that Snowden was still in Russia and he dismissed suggestions that the decision to allow Snowden to depart Hong Kong was a technical one.

“We are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official,” Carney said.

“This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship,” he said.

Snowden, who had worked at a U.S. National Security Agency facility in Hawaii, had been hiding in Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to China in 1997, since leaking details about secret U.S. surveillance programs to news media.

He was allowed to leave Hong Kong on Sunday for Moscow. Julian Assange, the founder of anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks which is assisting Snowden, said the 30-year-old en route to Ecuador, where he hoped to gain asylum.

Carney said that U.S. officials had been in contact with Hong Kong authorities since June 10, urging them to honor Washington’s request that he be arrested. Hong Kong acknowledged receipt of the U.S. request on June 17 and requested additional information about the U.S. charges and evidence on June 21, Carney said.

“The U.S. had been in communication about these inquiries and we were in the process of responding to the request when we learned that Hong Kong authorities have allowed the fugitive to leave,” he said.

President Barack Obama referred detailed questions on the issue to the Justice Department.

“What we know is that we’re following all the appropriate legal channels and working with various other countries to make sure the rule of law is observed,” Obama told reporters at an unrelated event on immigration reform.

Carney noted that individuals with felony arrest warrants were subject to having their passports revoked.

He said he could not comment specifically on Snowden’s passport for privacy reasons but said Hong Kong officials were advised of Snowden’s travel document status in plenty of time to have prohibited his departure.

Carney, who in recent weeks has studiously avoided mentioning Snowden by name, let loose from the White House podium on Monday, criticizing the former contractor for the countries he had potentially chosen for refuge.

“Mr. Snowden’s claim that he is focused on supporting transparency, freedom of the press and protection of individual rights and democracy is belied by the protectors he has potentially chosen – China, Russia, Ecuador, as we’ve seen,” Carney said.

“His failures to criticize these regimes suggests that his true motive throughout has been to injure the national security of the United States, not to advance Internet freedom and free speech.”

Source: Reuters “White House presses Russia to expel Snowden; sharp words for China”