The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) has released a new report revealing that Chinese ocean-going fishing vessels are engaged in widespread illegal fishing, human rights exploitation, human trafficking, and the deliberate killing of endangered conservation animals in all regions of the world. Protected marine animals were also abused and slaughtered.

EJF’s comprehensive data analysis found that the Chinese government’s subsidies for fishing vessels have allowed the Chinese fleet, already severely over-capacity, to continue to exploit the marine resources of developing countries, endangering the livelihoods of their people and their food security.
As mentioned in the report, illegal fishing is widespread in the Chinese distant water fishing (DWF) fleet. According to the data mentioned in the analysis, fishing without a license or authorization is the most common unlawful fishing incident, constituting 42% of the total.

Data in the report shows that 78.5% of all Chinese government-approved fishing programs are in African waters.

In West Africa, the Chinese bottom trawl fleet catches about 2.35 million tons of seafood annually, estimated to be about half of China’s total offshore fishing effort and worth more than $5 billion.

Testimonies from 116 crews aboard 88 vessels reported that 95% of them witnessed some illegal fishing practices.

Almost all of the interviewed fishermen said that the shark fins were illegally cut off and that they were discarded to death on the vessels.

EJF quoted a crew member as saying, “More or less, there were around 40-50 [sharks] per day. We took only the fins and threw away the bodies. There were also some sharks that we took the body too, but only a few of them, we used it as bait. Mostly we threw them away. We used any kind of sharks, we took a small part of them for bait, then we threw away the rest.”

The fishermen also provided video footage showing the marine mammals being abused and killed. Over a third of the interviewees said that people on the vessels also caught and slaughtered protected species such as turtles and seals.

In addition, about one-fifth of respondents said they often killed dolphins as bait for sharks. An interviewed crew member said, “It did not matter whether the shark was big or small, even babies inside the sharks’ belly – we took them all. I guess you could call it a ‘devil vessel’ because it really took everything.”

The report also notes human abuse from these Chinese fleets. Crews on these ships reportedly experienced physical and verbal abuse, tiring working hours, insufficient food and drinks, and forced labor at the hands of Chinese captains and seniors.

EJF quoted a crew member of a Chinese distant water vessel operating in the North Atlantic Ocean, “Often the captain shouted at me. He said that I did not perform well and that I was too slow and my work was not good enough… The captain even threatened to cut my salary.”

Generally, 85% of the crew reported abusive working and living conditions, and 58% had witnessed or experienced physical abuse.

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