A Chinese firm is sending six new vessels to African waters as part of a continued push to shift its fishing focus away from overfished domestic waters and toward richer fishing grounds abroad.
Wenzhou Ocean Distant Water Fishing Co. launched six vessels simultaneously, with three headed to Senegal and the others to Guinea Bissau, CEO Wu Xiu Ling told state television. The vessels will target tuna, demersal fish, cephalopods, and shrimp. The firm spent CNY 150 million (USD 21 million, EUR 19.5 million) building the vessels, according to Wu.
“Some of the catch will be sold in local African markets and some will be sent back to China for processing,” Liang Xiang Zan, head of the Agriculture Ministry office in Wenzhou, the vessels’ home port. Liang said the venture “will raise our local fishermen’s incomes” and he called for additional investment in Chinese distant-water fisheries to enable them to further expand in African waters.
In 2015, Liang’s office licensed Wenzhou Ocean Fisheries to build 10 vessels, giving the company four more vessels. China’s agriculture ministry is tasked with overseeing China’s 2,600 vessels operating in international waters. The bureau in 2018 suspended the license and subsidies of Lian Run Pelagic Fishery Ltd after the company was exposed for IUU fishing in Senegal’s waters.
China has pledged to cap its distant-water fleet at 3,000 vessels. But the number of those vessels fishing abroad has risen in recent years, due to a call by top government officials to expand China’s distant-water effort to make up for chronic overfishing in domestic waters. Currently, three-quarters of the vessels fishing off the coast of West Africa are Chinese-owned or -controlled, according to estimates by several nonprofit organizations.
Photo courtesy of Wenzhou Ocean Fisheries