A new map just published shows how much of the oceans are being over fished. More than half of the world’s oceans are now being fished by industrial vessels and more than 70,000 vessels cover a greater surface than agriculture on earth. As it stands, more than one-third of commercial fish stocks are caught at levels that cannot be sustained and fish stocks are in decline everywhere.
Among the findings are that five countries account for 85% of commercial fishing measured by hours at sea. China accounts for half of that number, and the others include Spain, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Let us not forget that people eat on average 20kg of fish each year but in developing countries, up to 70% of their proteins come from fish.
The only hope to prevent over fishing is that human beings restrain themselves. After all, on weekends and holidays the map shows sharp declines in fishing at these times. Cultural and political events impact on fishing show that humans still control the fate of the world’s fisheries.
This is the good news according to Chinese scientists, that the panda is not in danger anymore. However, the natural habitat in China is in serious danger. According to researchers panda habitats have seriously declined since 1990.
The habitat of the panda has been divided into tiny sections by logging, human encroachment, road construction and agriculture. This process called fragmentation can and will have an effect on the future of the panda.
Once again, only the Chinese government can help the panda survive on a longterm basis. The government helped in the past by restoring bamboo forests and established national habitat reserves. By building corridors between panda populations and reducing the fragmentation of the habitat the government can ensure the survival of the panda, despite climate change.
We are depleting the world’s oceans of fish by over fishing, and now 90% of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited or are facing collapse. Millions of people in the world and especially in the developed world depend on the sea for food and income. One country above all has an enormous impact on the fisheries of the world, China.
China with its population and its growing wealth are directly affecting some of the fish in the oceans. Having depleted the fisheries close to home Chinese fishermen are now sailing further and further away to exploit other fisheries. With the home government subsidizing the fishing fleet exploiting far flung areas of the globe for fish is possible.
Africa is now the destination of choice for the Chinese fishermen, more precisely West Africa. They are drawn to the area by corruption and weak governments that cannot enforce their own laws. Experts now say that two-thirds of the Chinese boats engaged in fishing there contravene international or national laws.
To illustrate the power of this Chinese fishing fleet suffice to say that the fleet has now grown to 2,600 vessels while the United States as fewer than one-tenth as many. These ships are so large that they scoop up as many fish in a week as Senegalese boats catch in a year.
What makes all this possible is the subsidies that the Chinese government gives to the boat owners who without this could not fish off the coast of Africa. In some cases these subsidies made the difference between a profit or a loss for the them. And that does not include the subsidies given to Chinese ports.
The impact on a poor country like Senegal has been massive; fishing stocks have plummeted and the locals cannot compete with the mega trawlers used by the Chinese. With less sea products there is less income for them and this results in higher food prices for the Senegalese citizens.
But there is a push back now by some affected countries. Indonesia has impounded some Chinese boats caught poaching in their waters and the Argentines sank a Chinese vessel that tried to ram a coast guard boat. Clashes between Chinese fishermen and South Korean authorities have resulted in deaths.
Perhaps eventually the Chinese government will cut back on those subsidies, especially if the rate of growth diminishes in the future or if an ecological movement can flourish in China. Faint hopes of course when faced with a dictatorship such as the one found in China.