China Tightens Sustainability Rules for Fishing Fleet

China Tightens Sustainability Rules for Fishing Fleet

China has implemented a raft of reforms for its distant-water fishing fleet, which has long been associated with persistent rumors of flagrantly illegal activities. If China is serious about these regulations, the country could make a tremendous difference and promote sustainability around the globe.
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Tighter Rules for Chinese Distant-Water Fleet
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The Chinese distant-water fleet is estimated at a minimum of 2,900 vessels, a number far greater than that of any other nation. At least 1,000 of those boats were brought into commission since 2003, and the reported catch has doubled. 
Now the Chinese government has tightened the rules governing the conduct of this distant water fleet. 
Specific Rule Changes
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The rule changes include reforms to the Distant-Water Fishing Management Regulations, new management measures for the High Seas Squid Fishery, and a new Rule for High Seas Transshipment. There has also been a revision to the Administrative Measures of the Vessel Monitoring System. 
Overall, the rule changes leave less space for illegal activities. They are designed, at least on paper, to increase transparency and promote more sustainable practices. 
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China’s Impact on Global Fishery Sustainability 
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As Douglas McCauley, professor of marine biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, explains, China is “the country that will shape what the future of ocean health becomes. No other nation has more say as to what will become of the future of our ocean.”
At present, China’s share of the world’s wild fish catch is reported at 15%. However, among the nations of the world generally there are discrepancies in reported fish catches, and a lack of transparency over fleet sizes – thus, no one really knows how much seafood people are removing from the ocean worldwide. 
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Sustainable Seafood: A Global Problem 
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Still, there is clear evidence that human harvesting of marine resources is taking a considerable toll. There have been alarming drops in marine fish and invertebrate populations over the past 50 years.
A UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) | http://www.fao.org/3/ca9229en/online/ca9229en.html#chapter-1_1 | report found that over a third of the planet’s fish stocks are overfished to biologically unsustainable levels | Learn more on Commonshare |. Another 60% are fished to the sustainable maximum. 
The stakes are high for all nations: worldwide, fisheries | Learn more on Commonshare | directly employ nearly 60 million people, and provide about 20% of protein intake for over 3 billion people. 
China’s new rule shifts indicate a willingness to shift toward sustainability | Learn more on Commonshare |. The new regulations take a much tougher line on illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activity. 
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China’s Steps Toward Sustainability
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Specifically, China has now added a new article, Article 38, explicitly prohibiting ships on IUU lists held by international fisheries from entering Chinese ports, with some exceptions for special circumstances. 
Transponder Reporting Mandatory
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China has also mandated that its ships report their location through their transponders every hour. Previously many ships have committed transgressions against international regulations by “going dark,” i.e. switching off their transponders to keep from being discovered in the wrong locations. 
Squid Fishing Closures 
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Another win for sustainability is seasonal closures of squid fishing. China’s government has now banned its own vessels from the southwest Atlantic squid fishery from July to September, and from the eastern Pacific fishery from September to November. 
Time will tell how great the impact of these measures will be. If China makes good on enforcing them, however, all indicators are that the impact will be tremendous.  

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