Understanding the Impacts of the Chinese Fishery Moratorium

Wei Zhou, ocean campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia’s Beijing office, used Global Fishing Watch to understand the impact of recent changes to fisheries policy in China on the extent of fishing in the Chinese EEZ. 

On September 16, 2017 at noon, over 10,000 fishing vessels based in Zhejiang and Fujian Provinces in China headed out to start the new fishing season. The annual Chinese fishing moratorium, lasting four and a half months, had ended, and it was time to start fishing again. The 2017 closure was considered the strictest in China’s history, restricting more gear types from fishing and closing fishing grounds for longer. Greenpeace’s Beijing office used Global Fishing Watch to understand the effectiveness of management and enforcement during this closure.

Wei Zhou, ocean campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia’s Beijing office, led this investigation as part of a larger effort to raise awareness on the threats of illegal fishing and overfishing by Chinese domestic fleets.

Zhou used the Global Fishing Watch map to visualize fishing density in the Chinese EEZ before and after the fisheries moratoriums in 2016 and 2017 to compare the apparent fisheries management success across both years. She notes that because AIS is not compulsory for all Chinese vessels, it is likely that many vessels were excluded from the analyses.

Chinese fishing activity from Jan 1-Sept 16 2017 in Global Fishing Watch.

Overall, results demonstrated that the nationwide fishing intensity showed greater reduction during the closure than during off season shifts. Greenpeace East Asia’s investigation identified over 100 fishing vessels highly active during the closed season. It also compared fishing activity between coastal provinces. For example, results showed that in 2017 in Hainan, there was less fishing activity than in 2016, presumably the result of new management measures and enhanced enforcement in the province. In Zhejiang, there was less fishing than in any other province during both years, reflecting the stricter management policies there.

Fishing activities during the fishing moratorium in Hainan Province. (left: 2016 fishing moratorium; right: 2017 fishing moratorium)

Zhou’s teammate at Greenpeace East Asia, Leon White, used Global Fishing Watch to identify some specific vessels fishing during the moratorium. Greenpeace sent a list of vessels that were potentially fishing illegally to the Chinese fisheries bureau for further investigation and confirmation of whether the activity was actually illegal. They are still awaiting a response from the bureau.  

The report concludes by advising continued reduction in excess fleet capacity, and encouraging the use of modern technology, such as video surveillance technology, drones, and public monitoring through Global Fishing Watch, to bolster enforcement ability.

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