China’s new satellite system helps fisheries officials manage illegal trawling

A domestically produced satellite system is changing management of Chinese fisheries, according to officials overseeing South China Sea ports during the ongoing summer fishing moratorium. 

Chinese fishery officials claim the country’s Beidou satellite system – touted as a replacement for the U.S.-based GPS satellite system – is helping it monitor trawlers and better enforce its fishery ban while also ensuring better safety at sea and management of storm seasons.

A government propaganda campaign has seen red banners raised around ports across the island province of Hainan this month bearing slogans like “Beidou isn’t just in the sky, it’s on our fishing boats!” A month into the fishing moratorium, fisheries officials monitoring the South China Sea say they’re now able to monitor and intervene when any boats are missing from port, according to Wu Qing, Ocean and Fisheries Bureau station chief in the city of Qionghai, speaking to Hainan TV recently. The system has been a big help in rescue work and in warning aquaculture farmers of oncoming storms, Wu added.

In recent years, China has encouraged fishing fleets to install the country’s Beidou (the name translates as “north star”), with government subsidizing up to 90 percent of the cost of installing the system on vessels. Key fishing provinces like Fujian have required fishermen to install Beidou in order to be eligible for fuel subsidie,s which are a mainstay of fishermen’s livelihoods in China. Likewise, China has sought to market the Beidou system to the fishing fleets of other nations, including Thailand, which has sought to install a satellite system on its own fleet.

While the Beidou (also known as BDS) has been instrumental in connecting Chinese fishing trawlers to the Chinese coastguard in disputed waters like the South China Sea, it now appears to also be used as a means of enforcing Chinese fishing bans. But it’s not clear how the BDS satellites are being used to monitor Chinese vessels fishing international waters. 

China isn’t the first to employ satellites to track its fleet. Similar vessel monitoring systems have been implemented around the globe, including in the United States and the European Union.


Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500