Fisheries are important for a variety of reasons. Fish is an important source of food, and is the primary source of protein for over one billion people, thus fisheries are important for food security. As one of the most highly traded food commodities, fisheries contribute significantly to the global economy with fish trade being worth $106 billion annually. Fish are also important for biodiversity and for scientific research. But fisheries are under severe strain, with 87 percent of global fisheries fully exploited, overexploited or depleted as of 2010.
China is the world’s largest producer of seafood, and therefore China’s fishing activities have significant implications for the sustainability of the world’s fish stocks. While much of China’s seafood production is from aquaculture and domestic marine production, China’s fishing activities in areas beyond China’s national jurisdiction, for example on the high seas and in Africa and Oceania, has been expanding. China’s “distant water fishing” (DWF) industry was launched in 1985 and today is the world’s largest in terms of vessel numbers. While China largely follows international rules on fisheries management, China tends to comply more with the letter of the law than cooperate with the spirit of the law. For example, even though China is a member of a number of regional fisheries management organizations according to international laws, Chinese fishing fleets vastly underreport their DWF catch and operate illegally in more countries than they have licenses for. Measures like removing fisheries subsidies; enacting port-state legislation, which would make it illegal to import fish caught illegally; and encouraging China to participate in multilateral coast guard partnerships are some policy recommendations that would ameliorate this problem, though developed countries also need to examine how their own fishing behavior has contributed to depleted fish stocks as well.
This talk is sponsored by the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program of the Woodrow Wilson School whose mission is to encourage research on China’s foreign relations and China within the international relations context.
Robertson Hall, Bowl 2
CWP Postdoctoral Fellow