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Transshipment: frozen tuna are transferred from the Hung Hwa 202 to the Hsiang Hao in the middle of the Atlantic (Image: Tommy Trenchard / Greenpeace)

Government targets offshore criminals with new fishing law

Click on the flag for more information about China CHINA
Wednesday, January 29, 2020, 00:00 (GMT + 9)

As distant-water fleets continue to put pressure on global fish populations, revisions to China’s top fishing law should leave less space for illegal actors

As China’s distant-water fishing fleet has grown considerably over the past 20 years, so too has the challenge of overseeing its operations. While the majority of distant-water vessels do not break the law, the remoteness of their operations nonetheless enables IUU (illegal, unreported, unregulated) fishing to persist, robbing coastal nations of resources and hampering efforts to make the fishing industry sustainable.

The introduction of new tools like blacklisting in 2020 will likely be key to managing Chinese distant-water fishing.

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Two years ago, the Ministry of Agriculture added several fishing company officials and boat captains to its blacklist. Resulting sanctions for the firms included the removal of subsidies and bans on distant-water operations. Some captains were banned entirely from the fishing industry. One such was the skipper of the Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999, apprehended in the Galápagos marine reserve carrying thousands of illegally caught sharks.

A revision of the Fisheries Law – the top document regulating China’s fishing industry – will now include the blacklist system. Experts believe the law will come into force later this year.

Enforcement

The law, which governs fishing in Chinese waters and by Chinese vessels further afield, is enforced by the Ministry of Agriculture’s Fisheries Bureau. It started life in 1986, and has been revised four times, between 2000 and 2013.

Official notes on the upcoming revision make clear the law has not kept up with rapid changes to the industry. For example, tougher action is needed on new practices like electrofishing.

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The revision clarifies who bears responsibility for breaking the law, increases penalties and clarifies details on enforcement. It includes a new section on oversight and management, specifying law enforcement powers and standards for evidence gathering. Wang Canfa, a professor at China University of Political Science and Law who helped draft the revision, said that “there was little language on law enforcement in the original, and lots of problems during enforcement.”

The law will receive several new additions to help curb IUU fishing. As well as the blacklist system, there will be requirements for vessels to record their port movements, with larger vessels having to stick to designated ports. Meanwhile, foreign vessels on the IUU lists of regional fisheries management organisations that China is party to will be banned from using Chinese ports.

Assuming the revision comes into force, severe breaches could result in Chinese vessels being confiscated, companies having their distant-water fishing licence revoked, and inclusion on the blacklist.

Author: Zhang Chun/chinadialogueocean.net | Read full article here 

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