Stop Overfishing and Dishonesty in China’s Fishing Reports

Target: Liu Xiaobing, Director of the Division of International Cooperation of China’s Bureau of Fisheries

Goal: End China’s overfishing, and ensure China accurately reports is overseas fishing

A recently published study in Fish and Fisheries revealed that China has been underreporting its overseas fishing catch. Although the country reported a figure of 368,000 tons between 2000 and 2011, the study places China’s actual catch closer to 4.6 million tons per year. Aside from implying gross overfishing in some regions, these figures also create serious problems for scientists who are studying fish populations.  According to lead author and University of British Columbia scientist Daniel Pauly, “We can’t assess the state of the oceans without knowing what’s being taken out of them.” What the new data also suggests is that the unreported fishing is seriously damaging artisanal fisheries in West Africa that feed much of the population.

For many years, scientists could not explain the absence of fish. According to catch estimates, their simply should have been more of them. Didier Gascuel at the European University of Brittany in Rennes, France, explains, “We had no idea the Chinese catch was so big and of course we never included it in our model.” Gascuel, who is also a member of a scientific committee which advises Mauritania and the European Union on matters of fishing, was stumped year after year at the low populations of bottom dwelling species off the coast of Mauritania. Species like the grouper, octopus, and sea bream remained inexplicably low, which pointed to overfishing by bottom-scrapping trawlers. However, because fishing contracts between Chinese companies and African countries are secret, there was no way to verify the cause.

In order to explain the low populations and verify the source of the overfishing, Pauly had to do some detective work. Using a variety of methods, the report concluded that many of the 93 countries and territories in which Chinese vessels fish were not reported on by China. The report also found a discrepancy between the number of fish caught and the number of fish brought back to China. In other words, the number of fish which enter Chinese ports is not indicative of the total amount fished out of the ocean.

The danger in underreporting is that the scientists responsible for setting fishing quotas, which are intended to avoid population collapse, cannot accurately assess how much fish can be taken out of the ocean. Moreover, if the trend of underreporting and overfishing continues, no one will be able to fish for shrimp and octopus anymore for fear of population collapse. Sign the petition below to support accurate reporting and end overfishing.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Director Liu Xiaobing,

A recent report in the journal Fish and Fisheries, suggests that the China has been underreporting is overseas fishing catch. Contrary to the reported figure of 368,000 tons between 2000 and 2011, the study places China’s actual catch closer to 4.6 million tons per year—twelve times the reported estimates. The result is that scientist cannot explain why populations of fish and bottom dwelling creatures such as octopus and shrimp remain persistently low.

Moreover, this seriously impacts the fortunes of artisanal fisheries off the coast of West Africa, where much of the overfishing and underreporting comes from. We understand that China has every right to fish where it has a contract to do so. However, this does not give fishing vessels and Chinese companies permission to destroy the livelihoods of West African fisherman and disrupt the region’s food source. Please do the honorable thing and provide accurate reports and prevent Chinese vessels from fishing past their agreed quotas.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: ecotist via Flickr

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One Comment

  1. Ruth Rogers Ruth Rogers says:

    Signed. Please sign this petition.
    This is to ask for the research to find out what is happening and why, and how to resolve the problems.

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