THE NEW YORK TIMES – Over the last two decades, China has built the world’s largest deep-water fishing fleet, by far, with nearly 3,000 ships.
Having severely depleted stocks in its own coastal waters, China now fishes in any ocean in the world, and on a scale that dwarfs some countries’ entire fleets near their own waters.
The impact is increasingly being felt from the Indian Ocean to the South Pacific, from the coasts of Africa to those off South America — a manifestation on the high seas of China’s global economic might.
The Chinese effort has prompted diplomatic and legal protests. The fleet has also been linked to illegal activity, including encroaching on other countries’ territorial waters, tolerating labor abuses and catching endangered species.
In 2017, Ecuador seized a refrigerated cargo ship, the Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999, carrying an illicit cargo of 6,620 sharks, whose fins are a delicacy in China.
“Our sea can’t handle this pressure anymore.” – Galápagos islands fisherman
Much of what China does, however, is legal — or, on the open seas at least, largely unregulated. Given the growing demands of an increasingly prosperous consumer class in China, it is unlikely to end soon. That doesn’t mean it is sustainable.
In the summer of 2020, the conservation group Oceana counted nearly 300 Chinese ships operating near the Galápagos, just outside Ecuador’s exclusive economic zone, the 200 nautical miles off its territory where it maintains rights to natural resources under the Law of the Sea Treaty.
The ships hugged the zone so tightly that satellite mapping of their positions traced the zone’s boundary.
Together, they accounted for nearly 99 percent of the fishing near the Galápagos. No other country came close.
The presence of so many Chinese vessels has made it harder for local fishermen inside Ecuador’s territorial waters, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution …