Chinese fleet targets unregulated squid fishery
A new report from FISH-i Africa outlines the activity and provides an analysis of the increasing levels of fishing activity by a fleet of Chinese owned vessels targeting squid in the Northwest Indian Ocean.
The FISH-i Africa Task Force has been tracking and analysing satellite data for this fleet in the Northwest Indian Ocean since January 2015 when four vessels were initially identified to be active in the area. The fleet has subsequently increased in number and by February 2017 as many as 53 vessels had been identified as actively engaged in the squid fishery in this region.
According to FISH-i, many of the vessels identified appear to alternate their fishing activities between this section of the Indian Ocean between November and April, moving to the North-West Pacific, an area frequented by vessels targeting squid, during May to October.
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 the catch being taken to Chinese ports for offloading. Between November 2016 and April 2017 there were 19 reefers active in the area, all of which had owners domiciled in China. Among these reefers was the Hai Fa, which is subject to an INTERPOL Purple Notice at the request of Indonesia for suspected illegal transhipment and unauthorised imports/exports of fish.
Analysis of satellite vessel tracking data shows that the squid vessels appear to operate exclusively in the high seas, avoiding exclusive economic zones.
FISH-I points out that 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. In fact, this section of sea is not covered by any regional fisheries management arrangement that addresses squid and therefore there is no regulatory framework in place.
With no applicable regulations and no conservation and management measures governing this emerging 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, a key feed species for other fish stocks.
Squid account for an estimated 6-9% of the global fish trade, with more than half of the landings of Chinaâ€™s distant water fishing (DWF) fleet comprised of squid. The global squid fishery is experiencing considerable growth as more efforts switches away from conventional finfish, instead targeting species in lower trophic levels.
The FISH-i report can be downloaded here.
Source: FISH-i Africa
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