The European Parliament has passed a resolution demanding increased transparency and surveillance in China’s fishing activities. Pierre Karleskind, the rapporteur, emphasized the need for the Commission to engage in a dialogue with China without fearing a power struggle to deter illegal practices, as reported by Euractiv.
Over the past few decades, China has transformed into a dominant maritime power, boasting the world’s largest fleet, with over 1,000 vessels scouring the seas for the last remaining wild resources. Since the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in 1983, Chinese fishing has surged from 5% to 15% of global catches.
Pierre Karleskind, the President of the Fisheries Committee in the European Parliament and rapporteur of the transparency text on Chinese fishing and traceability of imported products, highlighted that while the EU imports 70% of its seafood consumption, including numerous Chinese products, concerns regarding their fishing practices are not adequately addressed.
The resolution, passed with a significant majority of 573 votes for and 11 against, aims to “raise awareness” about the ecological, economic, and humanitarian impacts of this industrial fishing, particularly as China continues to escalate exports to the EU.
Reported illegal activities include fishing without a license, using illegal gear, and capturing protected species. A 2022 report on illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, at the request of the European Parliament, revealed that half of the vessels involved in such practices were Chinese. 65% of their unreported catches, accounting for 17% of the total, are suspected of being part of illicit trade.
A recent investigation by the Outlaw Ocean Project, as published by Le Monde in mid-October, reported incidents of abuse of foreign workers on Chinese deep-sea vessels. According to the Environmental Justice Foundation, a majority (97%) of Indonesian workers surveyed experienced physical or psychological abuse, including debt bondage and document confiscation.
However, the true extent of the situation remains elusive due to the opacity surrounding high-sea fishing, starting with the varying estimates of the number of Chinese vessels, ranging from 900 to 2,900 in operation, and potentially as high as 17,000, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).