Summary: Chinese Foreign Fishing Reports

Written by on April 5, 2013 in Policy & Ocean Law

According to a new study led by the University of British Columbia, Chinese fishing boats catch 12 times more fish than reported.

The problem:

  • Chinese fishing boats catch about $11.5 billion or 4.6 million tons of fish from foreign waters
  • Foreign fishing occurs in the waters of at least 90 countries – 3.1 million tons of which come from African waters
  • Most of that fish goes unreported – the catch is 12 times larger than what gets reported to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO)

This is a problem for many reasons. West Africa, for example, used to have some of the most abundant, popular fishing grounds but now, based on available data, almost all fish stocks are fully or over-exploited. If this much unreported fishing is going on in Africa, those fish stocks are probably in much worse condition than we think.

Not only does this affect fisheries on a global scale, it also directly impacts the countries from which the fish is being stolen. Many nations that can’t afford a big international fishing fleet could be losing tens of millions of dollars.

The researchers calculated the number of Chinese fishing vessels operating in international waters with the help of news articles and local fishery experts. For this reason, they note that the numbers are only estimates, but some from the UNFAO say that those estimates are far too high.

Map of Foreign Fishing Locations. Image courtesy of the Pew Ocean Science Division of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Map of Foreign Fishing Locations. Image courtesy of the Pew Ocean Science Division of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

To learn more:

View of Zhuhai fishing port.

View of Zhuhai fishing port. Photo credit: Vmenkov.

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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