Report details Chinese fleet’s illegal operations in West Africa
It’s the classic postcard image of Ghana: narrow, brightly colored wooden fishing boats arriving at the wharf of a seaside village, bringing in the daily catch. But that way of life is increasingly under threat, with a new investigation showing how Chinese vessels engaged in illegal fishing are depleting stocks, sometimes even reselling the fish to local communities whose livelihoods and food security have been compromised.
China is the world’s largest fish producer and has the largest deep-sea fleet (CDWF) – officially 2,701 vessels, but likely thousands more – many of which engage in numerous instances of illegal, unreported and illegal fishing. unregulated, according to an NGO, the Environmental Justice Foundation.
The group’s report released this week revealed that around 90% of Ghana’s industrial trawler fleet is actually owned by Chinese companies using local ‘shell’ companies to register as Ghanaians and circumvent the law.
“EJF has identified continuing cases of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and human rights abuses associated with CDWF in West Africa, particularly Ghana, where Chinese companies use elaborate schemes to conceal ultimate beneficial ownership of their so-called Ghanaian national vessels.These schemes include joint ventures, shell companies and subsidiaries,” he said.
While CDWF also operates in waters off Asia and elsewhere, its activities in Africa account for 78.5% of its approved deep-sea fishing projects, EJF found when analyzing data from China’s Ministry of Fisheries. ‘Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
CDWF bottom trawlers catch about 2.35 million tons of fish a year in West Africa, representing 50 percent of China’s total distant water catch and worth some $5 billion.
China’s gains often come at the expense of countries like Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, according to the EJF, with the highest number of reported illegal fishing incidents in the region. West Africa region between 2015 and 2019.
“Illegal fishing and overcapacity in the Ghanaian trawling industry are having catastrophic effects on coastal communities across the country,” EJF chief executive Max Schmid told VOA by phone. the last five years.
Women – who are usually responsible for processing and selling the local catch – are often the hardest hit by lost income, turning to transactional sex, according to EJF, a phenomenon locally dubbed “fish for sex”.
Meanwhile, locals working on Chinese trawlers often suffer human rights abuses, with ten Ghanaians interviewed by EJF saying they had all “suffered or witnessed physical abuse from Chinese captains”.
It is also becoming increasingly common for Chinese vessels to catch small pelagic fish, which are the main population caught by small-scale fishermen, and then resell them to communities for profit, the organization found.
In Ghana, neither the Navy nor the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development responded to an emailed request for comment.
The Chinese Embassy in Accra did not respond to phone calls from VOA or email requests for comment.
However, China has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, with an article in the state-affiliated newspaper world times newspaper last year “rebutting Western media rumors of ‘China’s illegal fishing’ and claiming that Beijing had introduced moratoriums on squid fishing and had in fact “tightened its surveillance of deep-sea fishing vessels in recent years “.
Another article in the newspaper said that “the country has done more than any other to protect the environment and the resources of the sea”. Separately, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency highlighted China-funded developments such as a new fishing port complex in the Ghanaian capital Accra, saying it will “significantly improve working and living conditions”. life of local fishermen”.