Study links 59 percent of industrial fishing offenses to Chinese vessels

A graph of fishing offenses.

At least one-third of all recorded fishery offenses are associated with industrial fishing vessels – specifically just 20 companies and 450 industrial fishing vessels – and over half of the industrial offenses have Chinese beneficial ownership.

According to “Fish Crimes in the Global Oceans,” prepared for ocean conservation group Oceana and published in Science Advances, 59 percent of offenses in the industrial fishing sector are related to Chinese owned vessels. Fifteen percent were tied to Indonesian vessels and 12 percent were associated with South Korean vessels.

In compiling the report, its authors reviewed the world’s largest database of reported fishing-related offenses and used global data to analyze the links between illegal fishing and other offenses like forced labor, drug trafficking, and money laundering.

Ecotrust Canada Principal Fisheries Investigator Dyhia Belhabib said the study found roughly half of all illegal fishing incidents involved fishing without a permit, mostly committed by artisanal fishers; about one-third were other types of fishing violations like under-reporting catch. Eleven percent involved labor and human rights violations and almost all were committed by industrial fishers.

The report found artisanal fishers are disproportionately penalized for minor offenses, like fishing without a permit, according to Belhabib, who is also the director and founder of Nautical Crime Investigation Services.

“Illegal fishing hurts the ocean and law-abiding fishers,” she said.

The report said tougher penalties, such as sanctioning vessel-owners and blacklisting vessels from national registries, would address the problem. The report also calls for policies that incentivize behavior change could make a difference. It advocates for “decriminalizing some artisanal fishing violations in favor of more cooperative approaches like gear buy-back programs and more community-inclusive management schemes.”

Image courtesy of Oceana


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