Chinese trawlers dominate the global fishing industry

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Chinese trawlers are the most active in the world and travel the furthest in search of their catch, new study of the global fishing industry finds, reflecting depletion of stocks in the country’s coastal waters and domestic demand growing.

China accounted for 17 million of the 40 million hours of fishing observed worldwide in 2016, compared to just over 2 million hours each for Taiwan, Spain and Italy, the three largest fishing economies. , according to the report. to study, Tracking the Global Footprint of Fisheries, which was compiled by researchers from organizations such as the nonprofit groups Global Fishing Watch and SkyTruth, the National Geographic Society, Google, and Stanford University.

Researchers tracked the activity of more than 70,000 commercial fishing vessels from 2012 to 2016 using satellites and technologies installed on vessels capable of monitoring their location and radio transmissions. The data was processed using artificial intelligence algorithms which enabled the team to identify the size, power and type of vessel. Although only a small portion of the 2.9 million motorized fishing vessels worldwide have been tracked, researchers have collected data on up to 75% of vessels over 72 feet (22 meters), including the type of fishing they did, where and when they fished.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, found that the movement of Chinese fleets was significantly influenced by the holidays and the government – they saw a significant drop in fishing activity during the Chinese New Year and during a state-imposed summer fishing. moratorium.

The data “clearly shows where management limits are in place and where they are helping to restrict fishing effort,” Dalhousie University researcher and co-author of the report Boris Worm said in a statement.

Researchers calculated that at least 55% of the world’s ocean surface was fished by industrial vessels in 2016, more than four times the land area covered by agriculture. They also found that China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea accounted for more than 85% of the fishing observed on the high seas outside their territorial waters.

More difficult to regulate

Distant-water fishing by Chinese-flagged trawlers has increased in recent years, fueled by the country’s rapidly expanding fishing industry and depletion of domestic fish stocks. But as they venture further, they have become more difficult to regulate. In August, a Chinese ship was discovered in the Galapagos Marine Reserve in Ecuador, carrying thousands of shark carcasses, some of which are from endangered species, highlighting major gaps in the monitoring of fishing vessels traveling beyond Chinese waters.

In response to the growth of deep-sea fishing, China has “taken a series of measures to strengthen fisheries management, including the implementation of a fishing license system, maritime law enforcement measures and inspection of ports, and the establishment of a monitoring system for large and medium-sized fishing vessels, ”the Fisheries Bureau in Caixin previously said.

As Chinese authorities continue face obstacles to undermining the country’s vast fishing fleet, the study’s authors said they hope the data they’ve collected will help improve the management of the world’s fisheries resources.

“Data in this detail gives governments, management bodies and researchers the information they need to make transparent and well-informed decisions to regulate fishing activities and achieve conservation and sustainability goals,” co- author Juan Mayorga of the National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seas Project and the University of California, Santa Barbara said in a statement.

Contact reporter Teng Jing Xuan ([email protected])

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