Seven trawlers leave Yantai, headed for Sierra Leone
Seven newly built fishing boats, including the “Lu Yan Kaiyuan Fishing 506” and “Lu Yan Kaiyuan Fishing 877” have set sail from Ba Jiao Port in Yantai, China, this week and will take 45 days to reach the coast of Sierra Leone in West Africa.
The boats are owned by Yantai Development Zone Yugang Fishing Development Co., which has also been developing a logistics port and real estate projects in Yantai, a coastal city with a large seafood processing and aquaculture sector.
Among the other Chinese players in Sierra Leone is Dalian-based Liaoning Da Ping Fishing Co, which lists Angola and Sierra Leone as the centers of its fishing operations in West Africa.
The arrival of seven new trawlers may cause alarm in Sierra Leone, which earlier this year announced a one-month fishing moratorium to replenish its overfished waters. Coastal communities that rely on artisanal fishing for food have complained that industrial fishing by foreign vessels has significantly depleted local waters. It’s not clear what impact the federal fishing moratorium has had in stymying foreign distant-water fleets from fishing in local waters, as Sierra Leone lacks an adequate coast guard fleet to police its 400-kilometer coast.
Additionally, Sierra Leone is coping with problems involving possible labor abuse on-board Chinese trawlers fishing in local waters. Squalid living conditions for Sierra Leonean workers aboard Chinese trawlers featured earlier this year on a BBC TV report on illegal fishing off the West African coast. Workers were paid USD 100 (EUR 89.33) per month – though there was no suggestion of indentured labor these trawlers, which appeared to be supplying European customers, judging by the boxes and packaging filmed in the freezing facilities aboard.
As of July 2018, five Chinese companies operated 66 vessels in Sierra Leone, according a statement issued by China's embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, upon the signing of a comprehensive agreement between the two countries guaranteeing Chinese vessels access to the waters of the West African nation.