Zhoushan trials new ownership structure for distant-water fleet

Authorities in China’s leading distant-water fishing port are reforming the ownership structures of its commercial fishing companies.

The municipal government in Zhoushan, which is home to approximately two-thirds of China’s distant-water fleet and which claims to be the world’s leading destination for global squid catches, is seeking to phase out a local ownership model from one of independent fishermen owning individual boats that are registered under a company name to one based on shareholders. Effectively, the reform shifts owners of individual vessels into becoming shareholders of a larger fishing company, rather than paying an affiliation fee to the company as is currently the case.

A new firm has been set up at the port to serve as a pilot for the new reforms. Putuo Ocean Fishery Co., which operates 42 vessels, will become a new firm, Zhoushan Yinghai Ocean Fishery Co., to be owned by individuals according to the size of their vessels.

Of Putuo Ocean’s fleet, 12 ships are owned by the company itself and the other 30 vessels are owned by individuals who sell their own catch. This is not conducive to “controlling risks” in foreign waters, according to Putuo Ocean Chair Wu Buwei. At a recent meeting co-organized by the Ocean and Fisheries Bureau in Zhoushan, he said the shift to shareholding ownership would encourage individual vessel owners to “share the rewards and risks” of operating in distant waters.

The reforms, which are being overseen by the Ocean and Fisheries Bureau, a state agency, shed light on the freelance nature of China’s distant-water fleet, which ranks as the world’s largest. China claims it has 2,600 flagged vessels operating in distant waters, based on data collected by the country’s Department of Agriculture, which licenses Chinese firms to operate in international waters. But independent studies estimate the total is much higher – as high as 15,000 vessels, according to the Overseas Development Institute.

Photo courtesy of oceanfishing/Shutterstock


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