China follows through on pledge of send grouper fry to Philippines to ease tensions

Published on
November 22, 2018

China has sent a large shipment of fish fry to the Philippines as part of an ongoing strategy to reduce tension over territorial disputes by assisting the development of the Filipino aquaculture sector.

Chinese recently officials loaded 100,000 leopard coral grouper fry in the port of Wenchang, Hainan Province, on a boat bound for the Philippines. A handover was overseen by China’s ministry of agriculture and the country’s Academy of Fisheries, which is advising the Philippines on aquaculture methods.  

“We want to see a new era in China-Philippines fishery cooperation,” Liu Xin Zhong, head of fisheries management at the Ministry of Agriculture, said at the hand-off ceremony.

Leopard grouper fry and aquaculture training – and access to China’s market – are being used by China as part of a charm offensive to reduce tension in the South China Sea. The campaign has the secondary aim of seeking to draw in more premium seafood supply from Southeast Asian nations, particularly the Philippines.

China was enraged when the Philippines in 2015 took a case against China into arbitration by the United Nations, which ultimately ruled invalid China’s claims on parts of the South China Sea also claimed by Manila. Stakes were raised further when Chinese patrol vessels continued to prevent Filipino boats from fishing in the disputed waters, even after the ruling.

But Beijing changed course in 2017 and pledged to ship 100,000 coral grouper fry (plecropomus leopardus) to Davao and Palawan islands by 2019. The fry were requested by the Philippines, according to Chinese Vice Minister for Agriculture Han Xu, who suggested that the finished fish could be bought back by Chinese restaurateurs. 

While tensions remain – Philippines fishermen have angrily rejected Chinese offers to cease fishing in return for training in aquaculture – the Philippines was one of 15 countries invited earlier this month to the Ocean Summit at “World Ocean Week” in Xiamen that saw officials and executives from Africa and Asia meet with Chinese policy makers and fishing executives in the Fujian region, which is a hub for China’s distant-water fleet. 

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