Will the ranking of Chinese deep-sea fishing companies encourage sustainable practices?

Zhou Wei points out that the Chinese government will not be aware of violations committed by Chinese ships in exclusive economic zones of other countries unless an information-sharing agreement is in place with the host government.

To fill this information gap, says Zhou Wei, Chinese regulators and technical assistance agencies will need to actively collect information. In addition, greater transparency – such as the regular publication of the names of Chinese DWF vessels – would encourage oversight by civil society and the public.

“In the United States, basically when our companies are not in compliance, we fine them. We put them in jail, ”says Sally Yozell.

“The important question is how transparent China will be with this [compliance] The data? How will this data be used during law enforcement? “

As far as she knows, China’s DWF business ranking system is unique.

Zhou Wei considers that the system is still in a trial period and therefore the results should not be used for rewards or punishments. So far, there has been no report on this.

“China has the world’s largest deep-sea fishing fleet. He fishes all over the world, ”Yozell explains. She believes publishing detailed information about DWF companies would help countries in West Africa, Pacific, East Africa and South America assess them before providing fishing licenses. .

International pressure

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the classification system is based on the experiences of regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs). It aims to “encourage” rather than force companies to “improve their management systems and implement strict monitoring measures… avoiding illegal behavior”. In other words, a high ranking can make a business look good, while a low ranking can lead to stigma. The ministry also said it plans to use compliance data as a factor in DWF licensing and industry support.

China is a member of eight RFMOs:

• The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas

• The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission

• The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission

• The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission

• The North Pacific Fisheries Commission

• The South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization

• The Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement

• The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources

Julian Chen, fishing industry researcher at Greenovation Hub, a Beijing-based NGO, said RFMOs set rules for governments and fishing vessels to restrict fishing activity, conserve resources fisheries and ensure the sustainable development of regional fisheries. China’s DWF Rating essentially translates RFMO compliance requirements and China’s DWF Management Rules into a rating system.

Chen explained that RFMO surveillance relies both on monitoring real-time location data, as well as on cooperation with port states, coastal states and flag states. Port states control the landed catches, while coastal states can patrol nearby waters through the coast guard. He says that countries which generally fish “have a central authority in the know of the movements of their fleets, and they are obliged to take administrative or judicial action against the vessels when they are informed of violations by RFMOs”.

According to Chen, RFMO standards are becoming more stringent, with a ripple effect on compliance requirements. Countries with more rigorous fisheries management are also trying to export their standards, which puts other countries under pressure.

China strengthens DWF management

According to a 2020 Ministry of Agriculture white paper on DWF compliance, at the end of 2019, China had 178 registered DWF companies, operating 2,701 fishing vessels. Of these, 1,589 fished on the high seas in the Pacific, Indian, Atlantic and Antarctic Oceans, as well as in the national waters of other countries.

The 13th five-year plan (2016-20) for the DWF sector provided that, in order to protect fishery resources, there would “in principle” no longer be licenses for DWF companies or vessels, and the fleet would not exceed 3,000 ships.

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