VerdEcuador: “The Chinese Fishing Fleet”

VerdEcuador, Entering a new era
Bimonthly Publication # 7, Aug – Sep 2020

The Chinese Fishing Fleet
The Chinese Fishing Fleet: Industrial fishing at its finest. More and more away from Sustainability. 
Eduardo Neira, editor 

The presence of the fleet of Chinese fishing boats near the Exclusive Economic Zone of our country has again given rise to a series of reactions within the Ecuadorian civil society. In good time, since it is necessary for citizens to acquire greater knowledge of the cause of a problem that has been occurring for decades and that in the current days has acquired alarming dimensions.

The matter should be analyzed from two approaches: that of sovereignty and that of sustainable fishing. Regarding the first, although both the Government and an increasingly large sector of our citizens are acting in defense of our seas, it is necessary to understand that such action is not enough, that it will not be enough to properly face what is in the making, not only in our seas but in all the seas of the world. It is necessary to recognize that the problem goes far beyond what concerns our sovereignty and to understand that acting “sovereign” separately, no country will be able to reach conclusive solutions.

The problem is global and only the joint effort of all the countries will be able to face this serious situation. Until a few years ago, our concern was centered on the illegal fishing carried out by ships of different flags in the seas of the world. Now it is clear that it is not illegal fishing itself that causes the greatest damage to marine ecosystems, but industrial fishing itself.

Each year, the world’s fishery catch far exceeds 100 million tonnes, and in the meantime, millions of aquatic animals – birds, dolphins, sea lions, turtles and a variety of non-tradeable fish – are killed by their nets and hooks. of industrial fishing boats. And here we entwine ourselves to the second approach, that of sustainable fishing, the tangible aspect, which requires our urgent attention and action, since we are facing the risk of reaching an irreversible situation.

Industrial fishing is destructive of the marine environment, both because of the excessive and indiscriminate way it is caught and because of the pollution it causes. The gigantic trawl nets sweep away all life in their path. The long lines of longlines contain thousands of hooks on which sharks, rays, turtles, sea lions, etc. fall indistinctly. 

Photo reads: The only way to stop the destruction of marine life is to limit industrial fishing to the minimum possible thanks to a global agreement. 

On top of that, huge amounts of organic and inorganic waste are dumped into the sea, such as burned oils and oily bilge waters, in addition to the usual plastics. The world’s industrial fishing fleet annually consumes about 20 million tons of fuel – largely subsidized – whose gases contribute significantly to the greenhouse effect that causes global warming.

All the parameters show that industrial fishing is not sustainable; therefore, we must find a way to gradually reduce it, while claiming and promoting artisanal fishing, that is, the type of fishing that humans have practiced for thousands of years without affecting the marine environment.Some studies on fisheries estimate that the weekly catch of a Chinese industrial fishing boat is equivalent to what a Senegalese boat catches in a year. Such is the difference between the extractive capacity of industrial fishing and that of artisanal fishing.

At first glance, it would be thought that a boat with a greater catch capacity is more efficient and, therefore, cheaper, but this is not the case. Industrial fishing demands enormous capital that is more than recovered by the high production of its boats.

But what has been ignored, and we cannot continue to ignore, is that this high production is achieved at the cost of the irresponsible extraction of the natural capital existing in the seas, that is, at the cost of the systematic destruction of the marine environment. It also burdens itself with the aggravating circumstance that the percentage of unreported fishing worldwide is extremely high, so that a considerable part of this profit is badly recorded and, therefore, does not benefit the economies of the countries but rather to a minority of people.

Artisanal fishing does not cause the serious ecological damage that industrial fishing causes, since it uses much less extractive fishing gear and its fuel consumption is much lower, in addition to the fact that its measured capture allows the self-renewal of the species fished. On the human side, it employs millions of people and the profits obtained are much better distributed than in industrial fishing.

In short, artisanal fishing – well regulated and controlled – is sustainable; industrial fishing, however well regulated it is, is not. The only way to stop the destruction of marine life is to limit industrial fishing to a minimum thanks to a global agreement. We return here to the issue of sovereignty: we need to sublimate our sense of sovereignty and unite it with that of the other member countries of UNCLOS to together, move towards a planetary maritime sovereignty that is capable of stopping the catastrophe that looms over all the seas of the world. 

Read the entire coverage from August 2020 VerdEcuador report at

Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2021

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