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China Accused Of Underreporting Its Catches China, April 5, 13

Chinese fishing vessels have been accused of taking a huge global catch
Chinese fishing vessels are taking a huge unreported global catch, fisheries researchers have found. Instead of an average 368,000 tons a year that China reported to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, its fleets hauled in as much as 4.6 million tons, the scientists estimate.

The group, led by Canadian Daniel Pauly, said China was taking 198,000 tons of fish a year out of Oceania. This is much greater than its reported western Pacific catch, almost exclusively of tuna, of 105,000 tons in 2011.

China has rapidly expanded into Pacific fisheries, with 241 China-flagged vessels approved to fish by the Forum Fisheries Agency, more than doubling in a few years, according to Greenpeace.

“It’s a grave situation,” said Greenpeace Oceans campaigner Nathaniel Pelle. “China is turning its fishing attention everywhere.”

Dr Pauly’s group reconstructed catches from 2000-11, finding Chinese ships focused on West Africa, where as much as 2.9 million tons a year was being taken.

“Chinese distant-water fisheries have become globally important economic actors,” Dr Pauly said in the journal Fish and Fisheries. “Unfortunately what did not improve in the transition to the 21st century … is the tendency towards secrecy in fisheries data.”

Dr Pauly’s group assembled its own database to calculate that China operated a far-seas fisheries fleet of at least 900 vessels to capture $11 billion worth of fish a year.

The group admits its estimates have a relatively high degree of uncertainty, and the FAO’s Richard Grainger told the journal the estimates were “far, far too high”.

But China’s director of International Co-operation at the Bureau of Fisheries, Xiaobing Liu, confirmed last year it took 1.15 million tons, three times the FAO figure.