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People's Republic of China - Fisheries

Capture Fish ProductionChina is the most populous country in the world, and has the largest fleet of fishing vessels. China is the largest fish producer in the world. Since 1990, fish production in China has ranked first in the world, reaching around 40 million tons in 1999 and accounting for 30 percent of the world total. With annual growth of 14%, China has become the world’s largest exporter of fishery products, with exports of US$13.2 billion in 2010, followed by Norway and the EU. China dominates global fisheries, accounting for roughly 50% in terms of tonnage and a third in terms of vessel numbers. The Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] reported in 2013 that as of 2004, the Chinese marine fishing fleet consisted of 279,937 motorized vessels. Most of these are small coastal vessles. During the period from 2000 to 2010, an average of 1,800 vessels were operating in distant waters.

China, the world's largest producer of fish, is experiencing a dramatic growth in per capita fish consumption and is also the global leader in fish export. China, which was previously known to over-report its domestic marine catch, massively under-reports (to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) the catch of its distant-waters fleets. This catch, estimated at 4.6 million tonnes per year (± 687,000 tonnes/year) globally for the 12 year period from 2000 to 2011 (compared to an average of 368,000 tonnes/year reported by China to FAO). Africa is the region where Chinese distant water fleets extract the largest catch, about 3.1 million t/year (± 690,000 t), followed by Asia (slightly over 1.0 million t/year ± 241,000 t). The only large regions of the world where Chinese distant water vessels do not appear to operate is the Arctic, the coast of North America, the Caribbean, and European waters.

The development of the distant-water fleet [DWF] is recent, starting in 1985, but has now expanded to 1,900 DWF vessels in 2010. During the period from 2000 to 2010 there was an average of 1,800 vessels operating in distant waters. The distant-water sector appears to depend heavily on subsidies to survive, and despite having evolved from being entirely state-owned to being 70% privately owned, it is the stated goal of the Government to modernise and expand (and restructure) the sector. A third of the industry is composed of a large Chinese state-owned enterprise, Chinese National Fisheries Corporation, and its subsidiaries. China now has the largest DWF fleet in the world, but its production capacity and industrial scale is much smaller than that of developed countries due to factors such as inadequate equipment and lack of technology, being constituted by relatively old vessels which lack long-range sea-going capability.

China’s massive over-reporting of its domestic marine fisheries catches was clearly illustrated by Watson and Pauly i 2001. What did not improve in the transition to the 21st century – occasionally seen as the start of an age of transparency – is the tendency toward secrecy in fisheries data, and the near complete disregard for public accountability of the use of public fisheries resources.

China has achieved rapid development of its fisheries industry in recent years. According to Chinese statistics, total aquatic output increased from 12.37 million mt in 1990 to 41.22 million mt (algae production included) in 1999 with an average annual rate of increase of 23.3 percent per year. Marine fisheries Marine fisheries sector is an important component of China’s fishing industry. In 1999, the production amounted to 24.7 million mt, of which capture fisheries contributed 15 million tons and marine culture 9.7 million mt. Growth since the beginning of th 21st Century has been exclusively from acquaculture, with oceanic capture fishery output remaining static.

Fishing licences were adopted by many countries where they became an effective management tool, especially since the legislation on the 200-mile exclusive economic zone came into effect. In China, there was no fishing licences until 1979. This seriously interfered with the normal administration of the fisheries. Therefore, in 1979, the National Bureau for Aquatic Products published the “Temporary Regulation on the Issue of Fishery Licences” which established that fishing enterprises should apply for a fishing licence from the fishery administration department. This licence defined the fishing boat operative model, the scope and duration of fishing operations, the species to be captured and the procedures to be followed to use the licence. Since 1980, Chinese fishery authorities controlled fisheries exploitation through fishing licences, the licensing system for boat construction being introduced later.

In 1999, the marine fishing fleet consisted of some 470 700 vessels, with a total power of 13.7 million kW, or 3,224 vessels less than in 1998. The areas in which the vessels operated were both near shore and offshore. The fleet had 21 651 vessels (4.6 percent) with main engines of 147~440 kW. The state-owned fishery enterprises own 9 995 vessels with 0.9 million kW of power, which accounted for 2.1 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively, of the total number of vessels and total power. Collective or private enterprises own over 90 percent of the marine fishing vessels.

The most common fishing gear used is the trawl net. In terms of production, trawlers account for 47.1 percent of catches, set-nets represent 17.5 percent, gill and driftnets 13.7 percent, purse seines 4.3 percent, lines and hooks 3.2 percent and other fishing gear 14.2 percent. China has over 60 distant water fishing enterprises, more than 1,600 vessels conduct distant water fishing, with an annual output of 0.8 million tons and a total value of US $ 560 million. The fishing grounds cover the high seas of the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean and the jurisdiction zones of over 30 countries. Although the total marine catch has continued to increase, the catch of high- valued species has decreased. As a result, fisherman have been experiencing economic difficulties. Due to the decline in marine fishery resources, and the continued increase in fishing activities, China has been carrying out strategic adjustments to its marine capture structure. The industry is obliged to follow the strict rule of Zero Increase, and to reduce its fishing activities by carrying out an overall moratorium in coastal waters for two to three months each summer.

The total value of national fisheries products reached US$ 30.52 billion or 10.3 percent of the national agricultural output. In 1999, the labour force engaged in fishery amounted to 12.57 million persons, with 6.52 million part-time workers; 59 percent of the full-time workers were engaged in aquaculture.

The rapid development of Chinese fisheries over the past 20 years indicates that China has great potential for development in this industry. In line with the development situation in the industry, China has made continual readjustments in her objectives and strategy. By doing so, the development of the industry met the present requirements, as more attention has been paid to sustainable utilization, environmental protection and human health. The people involved in the industry chose to enhance communications and cooperation with the outside world and to merge into the global economy. China has gradually created an industry framework that is suitable to Chinese conditions in which aquaculture occupies a dominant part.

After the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) came into force, China decided to carry out her Exclusive Economic Zone management system. Before reaching agreements with relevant countries on the issue of marine delimitation, China conducted bilateral negotiations with neighbouring countries (including Japan and Korea) separately, in order to make fisheries arrangement in the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea. (The Fisheries Cooperation Agreement between the Government of China and the Government of Japan came into force on 1 June 2000; the Fisheries Agreement between the Government of China and the Government of the Republic of Korea came into force on 30 June 2001.)

On the basis of the new marine management system, China started to amend her domestic Fisheries Law (the amended Fisheries Law came into force on 1 December 2000). The main principles of the amendment are: to gradually conduct quota management of the major fishing resources in the national jurisdiction of China; to strictly punish the violation of fisheries laws and regulations; to strengthen the management of aquaculture, etc. In view of the decline of marine fisheries resources, China sought to regulate her marine capture fishery structure.

Initiaves include strict control of offshore fishing activities, rectification of the inshore fishing order, ensuring a zero increase of the marine capture catch, limitation of trawler operations through an overall moratorium in coastal waters (3 month's moratorium from 15 June to 15 September in the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea, 2 month's moratorium from 1 June to 1 August in the South China Sea; more than 100 000 vessels and 1 million fishermen are effected by the moratoriums); strict implementation of the fishing vessel power control quota issued by the Government, strict enforcement of the approval and inspection system on fishing vessel renewal and replacement; strengthening of the management of fishing permits (all fishing operators must be trained by the fisheries administration and be issued a qualification certificate); resolute checking and penalization of "three no" fishing vessels (no boat name and number, no home port, no boat certification) which are unauthorized and built without permission.

Environmental watchdog Greenpeace reported in May 2015 that scores of Chinese fishing boats were illegally fishing off West Africa, even though Beijing says they are within the law. Observers said one-fifth of China’s distant water fishing fleet was operating in Africa. Greenpeace said the Chinese frequently supplied incorrect identification information that sometimes suggested they were in Mexican waters or even on land to avoid detection. Many ships also under-reported their catches to avoid paying taxes to West African countries.

The number of Chinese fishing boats operating in African waters has soared from 13 in 1985 to 462 in 2013. The huge increase in Chinese fishing vessels parallels growing Chinese investment and presence in the region.

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Page last modified: 28-07-2015 03:17:33 ZULU