China not playing fairly in Pacific fishery, says WWF
The World Wildlife Fund says China is not playing fairly in the Pacific ocean fishery, with the expansion of Chinese longliners in particular having created a crisis for local fishing industries, and exacerbated the decline of threatened species.
The World Wildlife Fund's Western and Central Pacific Tuna Programme Manager says China is not playing fairly in the Pacific ocean fishery.
Bubba Cook says the expansion of Chinese fishing interests in the Pacific, particularly the influx of longliners, has created a crisis for local fishing industries.
He also told Johnny Blades that China shows a complete disregard for the authority of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.
BUBBA COOK: What we've seen in recent years just with the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in Cairns, Australia just two Decembers ago, where most of the other parties fishing in the region were able to come to some an agreement on what level the number of vessels should be capped at and how they should continue forward with management of the fishery, literally at the last minute the Chinese representative came inton the room where the small working group was meeting and said 'not only can we not agree to this but we're going to increase the number of vessels to a level of 400 total vessels targetting albacore in this fishery which was an almost 300-vessel increase to what they had in place. So that's an example of how China is not playing very fairly within the system.
JOHNNY BLADES: Are most of these boats subsidised by the Chinese government?
BC: Without seeing their records, it's hard for me as an individual to say yes. but from what we know from scientists and economists that have done research on it, and we've had our own researchers take a look at some of the subsidisation of the fisheries is that yes most if not all of the vessels are heavily subsidised in terms of their labour, their fuel, their operational costs, their bait. So it creates a peverse dynamic in terms of competition with the regionally-based fisheries, for instance it's been terribly detrimental to the Fiji long-line fishing industry which simply can't compete at the fuel prices and costs that they have to pay for out of their own pockets, whereas the Chinese fleet is able to expand and continue to catch at a profit because they're so heavily subsidised, and that's true throughout the Pacific whether it's American Samoa, Fiji or anywhere else.
JB: From what we hear from scientists that some of these fisheries are on the brink of collapse, how does China's approach in that sense measure up?
BC: Well, in the long term it's not a very smart strategy if your goal is food security. Because if you're flooding the resource harvesting market in such a way that you're causing a collapse, ultimately it's giong to be to your detriment. I think in some ways, they may be over optimistic in that they feel if they mine out the resource in the Western and Central Pacific or maybe they feel that it's more resilient than most others think that it is, then they can just go somewhere else... There's a history in China of scientists and managers sugar-coating the information they provide to government officials. Chinese officials were over-stating the level of catches that were coming in to China, and they were doing that because they were trying to appease political leaders - they had to save face, they had to look good. And that happens in the scientific community, that happens in the business community, so there's an almost pervasive denial of reality in the situation with fisheries in every region where China fishes.
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