China pledges to cap its distant-water squid fleet
China’s Agriculture Ministry has published a document suggesting it will cap the number licenses it grants to squid vessels fishing in international waters.
If implemented, the cap would be the first instance China will have placed any limits on the size of its international fleet. China’s distant-water fleet – the world’s largest – has been the source of tension in South America as it has massed near the exclusive economic zones of Ecuador, Peru, and Argentina.
In a circular titled “Regarding Improved Regulation of Squid Fishing Work,” the ministry also said it “will increase the exploration and catching of new resources … in new fishing grounds” through better administration and management of the fleet. This means "in principle" there will be no further expansion of the fleet, according to the document.
The circular calls for tighter administrative approval and performance evaluation systems for China’s giant fleet and promises “active conservation of high-seas squid resources” and better supervision of landings of squid in Chinese ports.
The ministry document runs counter to unofficial Chinese policy in recent years, under which provincial and local governments have rewarded expansion-focused fishing firms with subsidies and others support. Encouragement of the growth of the sector has led companies from Pingtan Marine to the Penglai Jinglu Fishery Co. to the Jing Hai Group in Weihai to build more squid-jiggers. In a publicity event in early November, Jing Hai Group dispatched eight-squid jiggers to the Southwest Atlantic, with company executives telling media attending the event the company aims to double the amount of seafood it catches and processes through its new port within five years, reaching an annual total of 100,000 metric tons by 2025 and 200,000 metric tons by 2030.
Penglai Jinglu Fishery Co., one of China’s major state-run fishing companies, has extensive operations in Latin America fishing squid and tuna. It’s part of the Shandong Huiyang Group which conducted marketing campaigns around China in recent years to expand domestic consumption of squid.
Photo courtesy of Penglai Jinglu Fishery Co.