Chinese government document calls for development of domestic tuna market

Published on
March 10, 2020

China is seeking to grow the domestic tuna market as a government policy to aid the country’s distant-water fleet, according to a policy document setting the 2020 priorities for the fishery sector.

The document, titled “Key Points of Fisheries Management and Administration in 2020,” also calls for China to get a “fair and equitable deal” at the WTO negotiations on ending harmful subsidies to the sector, and pushes for further Chinese expansion into  Antarctic krill fishing and processing. And it calls for the “speeding-up” of construction of Chinese-owned fishing ports around the world.

Published by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, the document also calls for China to conduct more international cooperative ventures in aquaculture and in the co-development of offshore aquaculture facilities.

On the environmental front, the document pledges China’s support for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, emphasizing continued protection of endangered aquatic species, with an emphasis on the Yangtze River Watershed, now the subject of a 10-year historical fishing moratorium.

However, the document does not directly address the impact of the growing Chinese distant-water fleet on habitats outside China’s own territory. According to marine biologist Wang Songlin, founder and president of the Qingdao Marine Conservation Society and senior advisor at the Aquaculture Steward Council, China’s distant-water fleet – the world’s largest, with close to 3,000 vessels – is not yet acting in an environmentally responsible manner.

“[The fleet] is not yet adopting some of the best environmental policies and practices that can help improve conservation of target species, particularly tuna and squid and reduce bycatch of many globally threatened and protected species of seabirds, sea turtles, sharks, and rays,” Wang said.

The document points out that Chinese aquaculture is also in a period of transition, as increased environmental enforcement has pressured the country’s historical low-cost production model. That has, in turn, led farmers to shift to raising premium species such as crayfish and croaker, driving up demand for imported inputs like fishmeal.

Photo courtesy of topimages/Shutterstock

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