Illegal fishing by massive Chinese fleet costs South American countries 8% to 15% of their catch

Oct 11, 2023 | 0 comments

The Chinese fishing fleet has the worst reputation for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing globally. It is notorious in South America. Nearly a third of its 3,000 ships operate in the region all year. Chasing migratory squid, they spend the first six months plundering the Atlantic waters off Argentina and the next six hoovering their Pacific catch near Ecuador and Peru, having gone around Chile’s Strait of Magellan.

A Chinese fishing trawler operating near the Galapagos in 2020.

In the past decade, IUU fishing has depleted global stocks. It generates up to $36bn per year and accounts for one in every five fish eaten globally. That makes it the world’s sixth-largest illicit industry. In South America, IUU fishing strips countries of 8-15% of their annual catch, according to research by the American University in Washington. China accounts for three-quarters of foreign vessels in those waters.

The fleet is currently off Ecuador’s coast.

Ecuador, Peru, the United States, and 11 other countries concluded their latest exercise against IUU fishing on September 30. They practiced intercepting ships to combat illegal fishing.

Ecuador and Peru have also built a coalition to address regional IUU fishing, recruiting Chile, Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica. These countries publicly condemned China’s incursion in 2020. iN 2021M they pledged to link their marine protected areas to form the world’s largest reserve, twice the size of Britain. Their governments lobbied the World Trade Organization for an agreement to cut fishing subsidies, which was adopted in 2022.

The US Coastguard began patrolling with Ecuador’s navy in 2020. Since 2022, the US State Department HAS allocated nearly $30m for anti-IUU fishing programs.

By contrast, in Argentina and Uruguay, things have gotten worse in the Atlantic. The number of Chinese boats in the Atlantic increased from 74 in 2013 to 429 in 2021. Argentina President Alberto Fernández, whose country has close ties with China, has refused to press for greater regulation.
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Credit: The Economist

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