Having overfished their own waters, Chinese fishermen are moving on... to Africa

By Ryan Kilpatrick, May 20, 2015

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Chinese companies have been illegally fishing in African waters to an ever greater extent in recent years, a Greenpeace study has shown - all while sending back incorrect location data that suggested they were as far away as Mexico, or even on dry land.

Over periods totaling eight years, 114 cases of illegal fishing by these vessels were reported in the waters off Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Of these, Of these, 60 involved involved vessels of the state-owned China National Fisheries Corporation (CNFC).

CNFC was also caught under-reporting gross tonnage for nearly all their vessels in Africa - which either means they were trying to evade licensing fees (bad) or they were fishing in prohibited areas (worse). 

In China's own territorial waters, the country has been enforcing tougher regulations to help depleted fish stocks recover, scrapping vessels and relocating fishermen to achieve "minus growth" from 2002. To make up for the shortfall, however, Chinese ships have simply been taking fish from other countries' waters. The number of Chinese-flagged or Chinese-owned fishing boats operating in Africa has exploded in the past few decades, from just 13 in 1985 to 462 in 2013. 

According to head of Greenpeace East Asia's China ocean campaign, Chinese ships have been "taking advantage of weak enforcement and supervision from local and Chinese authorities to the detriment of local fishermen and the environment."

China is one of very few countries to operate a maritime militia, drawn from the world's largest fishing fleet.  These fishermen are important players in strengthening China's maritime presence in contested waters, trained to wage a guerilla-style "People's War at Sea" deliberately confront foreign fishing vessels and coast guard units. 

PHOTOS: Armada of fishing boats pours out from Zhejiang as fishing season reopens

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