China flagged vessels target unregulated North West Indian Ocean squid fishery

By Stop Illegal Fishing:23rd Oct, 2020: FISH-i Africa

Over one hundred Chinese flagged fishing vessels have been identified as active in the north west Indian Ocean squid fishery. Few details of the fleet’s capacity are available but public records show that many of the vessels are new, with 59 having been built in 2019 and 2020.

 

This amplifies concerns over the growing demand for seafood in China that is fuelling the expansion and increased subsidisation of its distant water fishing fleet. In 2018, total global fisheries subsidies were estimated to be USD 35.4 billion, with China accounting for USD 7.2 billion of it. The Chinese fleet receives tax exemptions, fuel subsidies and vessel construction subsidies – with many large fishing companies relying on these to make a profit.

 

Analysis of satellite vessel tracking data shows that the squid vessels appear to operate exclusively in the high seas, avoiding exclusive economic zones. Although this fishing activity is taking place within the area of competence of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), the species being targeted do not fall within the scope of the IOTC and none of the fishing vessels are on the IOTC authorised list.

 

In fact, this section of ocean is not covered by any regional fisheries management arrangement that addresses squid and therefore there is no regulatory framework in place.

 

This unregulated fishery was first identified in a 2017 report from FISH-i AfricaSquid capture in the Northwest Indian Ocean’. The report showed the growth of the fleet from just four vessels identified as actively engaged in the squid fishery in 2015 to 53 vessels by February 2017.

 

In addition to fishing vessels a number of refrigerated cargo vessels, or reefers, have been tracked, indicating that at-sea transhipment is taking place. With no regulatory framework applying to this fishery, the transhipment is unmonitored as is the offloading of squid from the reefers in Chinese ports.

 

Squid account for an estimated six to nine per cent of global fish trade and more than half of the landings from China’s distant water fishing fleet are squid. China is therefore responsible for around 70% of the global squid catch, landing a total of 520,000 tonnes in 2018.

 

2020 has seen intense scrutiny of the activity of the Chinese squid fleet. This follows the arrival of nearly 300 vessels in the ecologically sensitive Galapagos region, continuing tensions in the South Atlantic where Chinese vessels have come into conflict with Argentinian fishers in the past, and the identification of a dark fleet operating in North Korean waters in violation of international sanctions.

 

Responding to international concern in June 2020, Chinese fishing authorities announced the closure of two international squid fishing grounds for Chinese boats in certain South American waters from July to November, citing the need to allow squid populations to replenish.

 

The protection of South American squid fisheries may have come at the cost of the Indian Ocean. With no applicable regulations and no conservation and management measures governing this squid fishery, there are several potential concerns, including the risk of overexploitation that could lead to a demise or even crash of the squid stock.

 

Squid represent an important link between the massive biomass of lower trophic levels and oceanic predators in many if not all pelagic food webs. Squid are also prey for predatory species in the Western Indian Ocean, especially bigeye tuna and swordfish.

 

Benedict Kiilu, Kenya Fisheries Service, commented, “This squid “theft’ must be addressed. Little is known about the sustainability of the stock, but we do know that squid are a vital part of the tuna fishery ecosystem and therefore need to be fished sustainably. As coastal States of the Indian Ocean we need to find ways of ensuring all the benefits from the high seas, including areas beyond national jurisdiction, are fully accounted and paid for, and conservation and management costs recouped. An urgent common-futures discussion focused on these squid-jigging fisheries is needed to future-proof our fisheries, enhance transparency and stop illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.”

 

Sandy Davies from Stop Illegal Fishing said “Modelling squid stocks is challenging, due to their short life cycle and the need for physical sampling of the squid to determine biological indicators. Our challenge for management is that the area the vessels are operating is further north than the area of competence of the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA) and while it falls inside the IOTC area of competence, it is not a species under their mandate. It is important that unregulated fisheries are not lost because of gaps in the regulatory framework. Urgent steps are need to address this situation.”

 

Recent Posts

Committee on Fisheries Thirty-fourth Session

1-5 February 2021 Rome, Italy For more information go to: http://www.fao.org/about/meetings/cofi/documents-cofi34/en/

Read More...

SADC Secretariat, Member States and partners, SIF and WWF take stock on progress in implementation of SDG 14

Sustainable development goal 14 (SDG 14) concerning life below water is a priority...

Read More...

Vessel Inspection: Fisheries Enforcement Phrase Book

Communication between fisheries inspectors and the master and crew of fishing vessels during...

Read More...

SIF News Categories

The Issues

One in four fish in Africa is caught illegally, this threatens the sustainability of fish stocks, damages the ecosystem and deprives governments of income and people of livelihoods.

Find Out More...

Our Approach

Creating change by informing policy and practice, our hands on experience and investigative work means we are often the first to spot new trends and find ways to challenge these.

Read More...

Our Initiatives

Illegal fishing is a complex issue that requires multifaceted responses. Stop Illegal Fishing are working with a range of organisations to bring about change.

Find Out More...

Recent Posts

Committee on Fisheries Thirty-fourth Session

1-5 February 2021 Rome, Italy For more information go to: http://www.fao.org/about/meetings/cofi/documents-cofi34/en/

Read More...

SADC Secretariat, Member States and partners, SIF and WWF take stock on progress in implementation of SDG 14

Sustainable development goal 14 (SDG 14) concerning life below water is a priority...

Read More...

Vessel Inspection: Fisheries Enforcement Phrase Book

Communication between fisheries inspectors and the master and crew of fishing vessels during...

Read More...