Vanuatu court dismisses illegal fishing case against two Chinese vessels owned by tuna giant
A Vanuatu court has dismissed a charge of illegal fishing against the crew of two Chinese vessels seized in early 2021 by Vanuatu authorities.
Two captains and 11 crew members of the Dong Gang Xing 13 and Dong Gang Xing 16 were found not guilty in a recent judgment issued by Vanuatu Supreme Court Judge Dudley Aru. The vessels and their crews were taken into custody in early 2021 after being found allegedly fishing illegally in Vanuatu’s northern waters near the remote Torres Islands.
Both vessels were built by a major Chinese tuna firm in 2018 and are currently registered to Zhuhai Donggangxing Ocean Fishing, which has close ties to the government of China’s prosperous Guangdong province. A CNY 400 million (USD 60 million, EUR 56 million) Donggangxing project to build a distant-water fishery port in Zhuhai is listed by the municipal government of that city and by the Guangdong provincial government as part of the local 14th Five-Year Plan. The proposed port is part of a Zhuhai Fishing Port Economic Zone, which is listed as a Guangdong provincial level Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the central government blueprint to integrate international economies into China's economy. Zhuhai and other ports in China’s coastal provinces pay subsidies to distant-water fishing firms and encourage them to bring their catches back to local ports for processing and sale.
In 2018, Zhuhai Donggangxing announced it was sending 10 new vessels to Vanuatu in 2018 and would build a logistics and processing base there as well. After being licensed in 2016 by China’s Agricultural Ministry to operate in Africa, the company has focused on the waters of Mauritania, where it also has built a logistics hub.
Photo courtesy of Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission