Zhejiang Ocean Family lauds Kiribati tuna haul

Published on
March 17, 2021

Chinese tuna firm Zhejiang Ocean Family has reported a bumper tuna catch in Pacific waters.

On its maiden voyage after refurbishment, the Xin Shi Ji 112 purse-seiner returned to port after 18 days “loaded to the brim’ with tuna, according to a company announcement.

“Normally such a fishing expedition takes 30 to 35 days for a full load,” Ocean Family said.  

Ocean Family’s tuna-fishing vessels operate in waters off the Pacific islands of Kiribati and Vanuatu. In 2018, the company signed a fishery development agreement with Kiribati to develop a “comprehensive fisheries park” incorporating tuna processing and aquaculture. Also in 2018, the firm commenced work on what it said would be the largest tuna processing facility in China, with fish caught by its Kiribati-based vessels.

Ocean Family is controlled by Wanxiang Sannong, a private equity group owned by China’s leading automotive parts maker and a state agricultural conglomerate. The company also said that catches by its Argentinean squid fleet were up 12 percent year-over-year in the first two months of the year.

Kiribati, a Pacific Island of 100,000 inhabitants formerly ruled by Britain, receives around 80 percent of its revenue from fees charged to tuna companies for accessing its 200-mile ocean-based exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which is around 3.5 million square kilometers in size.

China scored a coup in 2014 when it secured the right to fish in Kiribati waters – a move that effectively forced the U.S. fleet out. Governments of the 17 members of the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency reached a deal in 2015 under which the U.S. fleet would pay for its fishing days, but subsequent to its deal with China, Kiribati reduced the fishing time it allotted to the U.S. fleet to a level regarded as uneconomical by American fishing firms.

China restored diplomatic relations with Kiribati in 2019, having drawn the island away from recognizing Taiwan as politically independent. Regional experts have suggested China’s fishery-related investments are part of a broader strategy from Beijing to build a strategic presence across the Pacific.

Photo courtesy of Kyung Muk Lim/Shutterstock

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