Court judgment emphasizes distant-water fishing as strategic national priority for China

China Distant Ocean Fisheries Association President Zhang Xianliang
China Distant Ocean Fisheries Association President Zhang Xianliang | Photo courtesy of China Squid Industry Conference
4 Min

China’s highest court has published a ruling reinstating subsidies to a distant-water fishing company on the grounds that fishing in international waters is a strategic national priority.

The ruling, delivered by the Xiamen Foreign-related Maritime Tribunal, offers insight into the rationale for Chinese policymakers’ robust support for the subsidized expansion of distant-water fishing operations, even though the Chinese fleet has been accused of illegal fishing and labor practices.

In a publication of “national maritime trial typical cases” published for National Ocean Day, the Supreme Court published a ruling that reinstated public funding to an unnamed distant-water fishing company. The company had sued the Jinjiang Municipal Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in Fujian province after the latter rejected its application for subsidies on the grounds it had been “subject to punishment for dishonesty” in the past.

The Xiamen Maritime Tribunal ordered the Jinjiang Municipal Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Affairs to restore the payment of subsidies because distant-water fishing is a “strategic national industry for building a community of shared future for the ocean” and for the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative. The initiative is a Chinese foreign policy blueprint that calls for connecting China to global markets through infrastructure and trade, including through trading in seafood.

The ruling also references the central role of distant-water fisheries in securing food security for China, which is home to the world's largest distant-water fleet, and states that distant-water fishing has an important function of “safeguarding national maritime rights and interests.”

In a recent whitepaper, “Development of China’s Distant Water Fishing Industry,” the Chinese government committed to ...

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