The detrimental impact of Chinese DWF on the environment


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THE ILLEGAL CHINESE FISHING FLEETS REPORT

With the local and domestic marine life depleted, many of the industrialized nations such as China are looking towards foreign waters to meet the need for seafood. This had led to the exploitation of less industrialized and under-developed nations, especially in Africa and Latin America. Not only are these distant water fishing fleets competing with the local fishermen but also are responsible for overfishing and extraction of unsustainable amounts of seafood through illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities.

Routes of prominent Chinese fishing vessels  : ij-reportika.com
Routes of prominent Chinese fishing vessels from 2019 to 2022

According to our comprehensive report, China has deployed its distant-water fishing (DWF) vessels across every ocean around the globe. It has also been found guilty of trespassing in the Exclusive Economic Zones of more than 80 countries and fishing outside its EEZ on the high seas. With more than 18,000 boats in the world’s oceans, China has consistently ranked top in seafood production and fish capture. Producing almost 12 million tons of live weight, almost double of Indonesia, the second largest producer, it is quite evident that Chinese DWF is heavily engaged in IUU fishing activities and catching way above the surplus amount.

Distant-water fishing fleets are vessels that operate within the EEZs of other countries that have signed access agreements to allow these fleets to fish inside their territories as well as on the high seas. However, the DWFs are only allowed to take the ‘surplus’ fish not caught by the host country against a fee negotiated under the access agreement.

According to our findings in the comprehensive report, Chinese authorities have not published any statistics regarding catch or stocks, and these fleets have been catching well above the surplus. In addition, there have been accusations about them falsifying licenses & documentation, espionage & reconnaissance activities, seizing territories, generating a lot of sea waste, and targeting endangered shark species.

Pollution caused by the DWF

The distant-water fishing vessels travel from one side of the globe to the other side. This means a lot of fuel is consumed during multi-day trips. A trip from China to western Latin America (the East Pacific Ocean) would take around 43 days and a trip to the eastern part of Latin America ( the Mid-Atlantic Ocean) would be completed in approximately 49 days on a ship going at the speed of 10kt.

Assuming that one of these trawlers is powered by a 5000 HP engine, fuel consumption for one of these trips to Ecuador would be 416,783.27 gallons for a petrol engine and 283,063.88 gallons for a diesel one. Similarly, from China to Brazil, the same trawler would consume 475,258 gallons of petrol or 322,768.74 gallons of diesel. While the fuel consumption decreases at cruising speed, these numbers would still be high enough to raise eyebrows in shock.

Consumption of even 1 gallon of petrol/diesel produces Carbon Monoxide (CO), Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Sulfur (SO2), Nitrogen Dioxide (NOx), Nitric Oxide (N2O), Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and Hydrocarbons (HCs). One can estimate the damage that the Chinese Shipping vessels are doing to the environment.

The Chinese Bottom Trawlers

impact of Chinese DWF Trawlers on the environment : ij-reportika.com
Chinese Trawler An Xing Hai

The majority of vessels that are engaged in distant-water fishing are trawlers and longliners. Trawlers are large boats that have large weighted nets that are pulled along the bottom of the sea or in midwater at a specified depth. Trawling is considered an ecologically taxing fishing activity that causes a lot of damage to marine life, marine habitats, coral reefs, and sea beds.

The destruction of coral reefs where marine animals live and the breed has led to reduced population and marine diversity. This is leading to ocean acidification, warmer seas, and reduced oxygen levels in the water.

While China has banned bottom trawling within its territory, it has encouraged its DWF vessels to conduct trawling activities close to other countries’ EEZs in Africa, South America, Russia, and littoral states of the Indian Ocean, South, and mid-Atlantic ocean and the pacific ocean.

The Chinese Longliners

impact of Chinese DWF Longliners on the environment : ij-reportika.com
Chinese Long Liner Chang Rong 3

Another type of vessel commonly used by the Chinese for DWF is the long-liners. Long lining is a type of fishing method that uses a large number of short lines with hooks which are then attached to a longer main line at regular distances. The main line can extend up to 10 km with thousands of shorter lines with baited hooks floating along the surface of the ocean to catch pelagic fish species such as tuna or marlin. However, the baited hooks can attract other species of fish too, resulting in a substantial amount of unwanted bycatch.

Moreover, these long lines also kill larger animals such as turtles, sharks, whales, and even sea birds that come in the way of sharp hooks.

Long liners are also notorious for ghost fishing. Ghost fishing is a term used to describe fishing done by any derelict gear, which is lost, abandoned, or discarded. Such fishing gear, uncollected by the fishermen, floats around in the ocean freely and catches and even kills animals trapped in them. The long lines, which float on the ocean surface, can detach or break if any ship passes over them. Once separated from the marker buoys, the detached lines are difficult to find, becoming ghost gear.

Garbage dumps in the ocean

impact of Chinese DWF on the environment : ij-reportika.com
Garbage with Chinese labels on the shores of the Galapagos Archipelago

Ghost gears contribute a lot to the waste generated by the longliners in addition to containers of marine oil, bottles, Chinese-labeled jute bags, etc. In the Galapagos Islands, Chinese boats have been dumping gigantic amounts of plastic waste in the water. They are responsible for killing wildlife and polluting the water of a place that is home to more than 7,000 endemic species. According to experts, about 30% of the garbage on the islands’ shores comes from Chinese fleet fishing at Ecuador’s coasts and marine protected areas.  


At a time when all countries around the world are changing their policies in favor of environmental conservation, the Chinese are still aggressively engaged in activities that are extremely detrimental to the environment. Overfishing, dumping waste into marine protected areas, polluting air, water, and land alike, disturbing and destroying the coral reefs, killing protected fish species – it is worth asking why the Chinese are so adamant on turning the environmental laws, policies, and conventions into a laughing stock.  

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