Trawler from China’s top processing hub is seized by Ghanaian authorities for second time

A trawler owned by a Chinese distant-water fishing firm has been impounded by Ghanaian authorities for a second time for breaking the country’s fisheries laws.

The Lu Rong Yuan Yu 956 was arrested on 30 May by Ghana’s Marine Police for using nets with a mesh size below the legal limit and for catching undersized fish. A court date has been set for 16 June.

Locally registered to Ghana-based Gyinam Fisheries Ltd, The Lu Rong Yuan Yu 956 is operated by Rongcheng Ocean Fishery Co Ltd, which is headquartered in the city of Rongcheng, home to a significant part of China’s seafood processing industry.

The owners of the Lu Rong Yuan Yu were fined USD 1 million (EUR 881,000) in October 2019 for using illegal nets that have been blamed for the destruction of pelagic fish habitats. However, the vessel was released after the owners claimed they were not able to pay the fine, and shortly afterwards, the vessel’s fishing license was renewed by Ghanaian authorities, allowing it to subsequently renew fishing in both Ghana and neighboring Cote d’Ivoire. Requests from SeafoodSource to the Ghanaian government for comment on the vessel’s release did not receive a response.

“Such has been the devastating impact of illegal fishing activities that Ghana now has to import around half of its fish, and local fishing communities are increasingly victims of the impact of rapidly declining fish populations,” EFJ Executive Director Steve Trent said in a press release. “According to the Fisheries Act, failure to pay the fine within 30 days results in the matter reverting to the court. It is now essential that the court uses all legal options available to require payment of the fine and accompanying sanctions to ensure deterrence.”

Ghanaian waters are suffering from overfishing due to a growing influx of large foreign vessels, mostly from China, according to the Environmental Justice Foundation. With 137 ships, Ghana has the largest registry of Chinese distant-water vessels outside China, according to a new report from the U.K.-based Overseas Development Institute. According to an ODI report, five of those vessels “appear to be in breach of the Ghanaian 2002 Fisheries Act, which limits fishing licenses for semi-industrial and industrial fishing vessels to those flying a Ghanaian flag.”

The ODI report estimates China’s distant-water fleet at 15,000 vessels in total, five times larger than previously thought. Of that figure, 90 percent fly the Chinese flag. Almost 1,000 Chinese vessels were found to be registered overseas, with 518 flagged to African nations, according to the report.

It’s not clear how seriously governmental authorities in China are taking the issue of its national fleet’s responsibility for overfishing abroad. Two Rongcheng trawlers, the Lu Rong Yuan Yu 267 and 268, were celebrated earlier this year in a government-financed film titled Hai Yang Dui Yu Ji (“Ocean Chase for Fish”), directed by respected filmmaker Jing Jian Min. It shows a “magnificent voyage” by the vessels from Sha Wo Dao port near the city of Rongcheng to the Indian Ocean.

Photo courtesy of Environmental Justice Foundation


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