Fishing is a key source of income for many people throughout the world. This is especially true for small fishing villages in China, such as the Lianjiang Province of Fujian, China. My father was part of the mass diaspora of fishermen there, due to overfishing. While the Chinese government is trying to replenish the fish population by establishing fish protection zones and prohibiting certain methods of fishing (such as the use of explosions), fisheries, such as the Lianjiang Far Sea Fishery, are significantly harming the fish population and affecting the income of fishermen in fishing villages. In order to replenish the fish population and ensure the well-being of fishermen, the Chinese government must implement stricter rules and regulations in addition to heavier surveillance on fisheries.
Some fisheries are managed with no restrictions imposed at all. Consequently, there is suspicion surrounding the practices at fisheries like the Lianjiang Far Sea Fishery. The Lianjiang Far Sea Fishery belongs to China Ocean Resource, a deep-sea fishery, which is headquartered in Lianjiang Province in Fujian China. The company prides itself in providing “high grade marine products” and an ecofriendly method of fishing: longline fishing (China Ocean Resources 3). In their recent report, they stated that their revenue and number of fish captured have increased in a staggering rate. From 2003 to 2010 the amount of fish captured increased from 1,239 tons to 13, 594 tons. Their revenue also increased from 28 million Chinese yuan (RMB) (roughly 4 million USD) to 541 RMB (roughly 79 million USD) (China Ocean Resource 10). As of September 2009, they also have ten fleets of fishing vessels located in the Mid-West Pacific Ocean, which is where Fujian is located, and nineteen boats located in the South Indian Ocean (China Ocean Resource 7). The increased number of fish and rate at which they capture them is highly questionable. How can the number of fish they capture in a span of seven years increase almost thirteen times when they only own 29 vessels (keeping in mind that the number of vessels has increased over years)? The depleting fish population is a critical issue in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The decline of the fish population is generally caused by pollution, global warming, and overfishing by multiple fisheries. Thus, if the Lianjiang Far Sea Fishery continues to increase the number of fish captured, the company will put pressure on the already depleting population in the deep-sea areas of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
The government therefore must impose a law that limits the amount of fish that fisheries can capture and strictly monitor fisheries to ensure that they do not exceed this number. If not, some may resort to farming to meet customer demand. Biao Xie and his team from China studied the effect of cultivating wild fish to meet the demand of consumers. Cultivating fish can lead to serious environmental damages to local ecosystems. Most farmers use antibiotics on farmed fish to prevent disease (Xie et al. 246). However, since some of the water containing the farmed fish is usually emptied into oceans, there is an increased likelihood of antibiotic resistance to bacteria in the water, which can lead to more fish getting infected (Xie et al. 246). Additionally, mass farming of fish can cause health hazards to consumers. Farmed fish can ingest heavy metals and other harmful chemicals (such as pesticide) (Xie et al. 247). If a human consumes these fish there can be an increase in cancer risk (Xie et al. 247). If the Chinese government regulates fisheries there would be no need for unregulated fish farming. This way there would be just enough fish for every fishery to gain some profit while ensuring that the fish population thrives. Additionally, less toxic fish in the market is better and safer for consumers.
Although the Lianjiang Far Sea Fishery is using a more eco-friendly method of fishing compared to those used traditionally, it does not mean that it is an eco-friendly company. According to the Council of Ethics for the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, the China Ocean Resource should be able to receive funds from the government. As stated in the report, “of the 40 vessels owned and operated by China Ocean Resources, 25 are listed by name on the company’s website” and of the 25 vessels listed “five of the vessels have expired, while 16 of the fishing boats hold no authorization at all” (Council of Ethics 8). This means that the Lianjiang Far Sea Fishery could have fished illegally in local Fujian water, which would significantly diminish local fish populations. In addition, the Lianjiang Far Sea Fishery also catches four specific endangered species of sharks that are banned by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission: the silky shark, smooth hammerhead, pelagic thresher shark, and the gummy shark (Council of Ethics 10). A decrease in the shark population has even greater ramifications, as it can harm the food web of the ocean. If there is a decrease in the shark population, there will be an increase in the population of mesopredators (Ferretti et al. 2). Mesopredators are smaller sharks, rays, and marine mammals (animals that sharks eat) (Ferretti et al. 3). The mesopredators will increase due to the decrease of predation risk (Ferretti et al. 2). This would eventually lead to a ripple effect. Since sharks eat mesopredators and mesopredators eat resource species, such as invertebrates, seagrass, and smaller fish, this means that a decrease in the shark population would lead to a decline in consumable, smaller fish (Feretti et al. 4). Thus, the government should inspect fishing vessels closely to reduce and eliminate the number of illegal sharks captured. After all, if sharks are protected there would be a healthier marine ecosystem.
The illegal fishing in the Pacific Ocean not only affects the fish population, but it also affects the employment opportunities for fishermen. According to the annual reports from the Council of Agriculture, in 2010 there were 1,159 fishermen in the Lianjiang Province. However, in 2015 there were only 975 fishermen employed. This is due to the lack of fish in the ocean. Villagers in the Lianjiang Province primarily rely on fishing as a source of income. Without strict government regulations imposed on major fisheries, local fishermen do not catch enough fish to earn a decent amount of money and as a result some fishermen resort to farming fish; however, some local fishermen lack the proper knowledge of how to dispose of waste and how much antibiotic cultivated fish need (Xie et al. 243). Thus, farming for fish is a risky option for local fishermen. Other fishermen who decide not to farm fishes migrate into major cities in China in attempt to find jobs. Since most high paying jobs requires college degrees, fishermen resort to taking low paying jobs such as washing dishes or working in factories. They are forced to work tirelessly just to make ends meets. For the well-being of fishermen, the government should implement protection laws for local fishermen to ensure that they have access to wild fish. To do so, the government needs to restrict the amount of fishing by larger fisheries.
Although the Chinese government does have some laws to protect marine animals, these regulations are usually disregarded. The government must have heavier surveillance on large fisheries to protect the delicate marine ecosystem and ensure that local fishermen can earn a steady income. Companies, such as the Lianjiang Far Sea Fishery, disregard the laws implemented by the government and continue to fish illegally. Because of this behavior, many fisheries and local fishermen rely on farming fish, which proves to be harmful to wild marine animals. If the government implements new and stricter rules, the underwater ecosystem will gradually restore itself to its natural state. Additionally, this would be beneficial for local fishermen. If the government manages to successfully replenish the fish population, more fishermen will return to fishing villages, decreasing the overpopulation of major cities. If I see a resurgence of fishermen the next time I visit Fuzhou, then I will presume the government has successfully implemented its regulation.
“Fact Sheet: Long Line Fishing.” Humane Society International Australia. Accessed 30 March 2017.
Ferretti, F, et al. “Global Consequences of Shark Declines.” Lenfest Ocean Program. August 2010. Accessed April 19.
“Fishermen Household and Population,” Council of Agriculture. 2011. Accessed 30 March 2017.
“Fishermen Household and Population,” Council of Agriculture. 2015. Accessed 30 March 2017.
“Industrial Tuna Longlining.” FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. 19 September 2003. Accessed 30 March 2017.
“Investors Relations 2010,” China Ocean Resource. September 2020. Accessed 30 March 2017.
“Recommendation to exclude China Ocean Resources from the investment universe of the Government Pension Fund Global.” Council of Ethics for the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global. 2013. Accessed 30 March 2017.
Xie, Biao, et al. “Organic Aquaculture in China: A Review from a Global Perspective.” Aquaculture, vol. 414-415, 15 Nov. 2013, pp. 243-253. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.aquaculture.2013.08.019. Accessed 30 March 2017.