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Will China Push Europeans Out Of The Indian Ocean?

Aiming to corner tuna resources globally, China could displace European boats fishing in the waters of the Indian Ocean and will welcome tuna imports from Mauritius.

China welcomed Mauritius’ fisheries minister Louis Joseph Von Mally to Beijing to meet with Wu Qinghai, Deputy Director of China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision (AQSIQ). The visit was arranged for the signing of an agreement on export licensing for Mauritian seafood.

SeafoodSource outlined that the AQSIQ report of the meeting states that Wu and Von Mally signed a Memo for Mauritians Aquatic Products Exports – a vital step in getting AQSIQ approval for Mauritius seafood for sale in China.

It is not clear what the Chinese pursuit of local tuna would mean for Mauritian fishermen, who have in the past accused EU vessels of overfishing and underpaying in the waters of Mauritius. The country’s Union of Fishermen suggests that the current situation undervalues local tuna under a deal with the EU fleet which allows the harvesting 5,500 tons of tuna per year for only USD 803,315.

The Union has also criticized EU fishermen for using purse seine vessels that empty the seas of juvenile fish caught up in the nets. Von Mally disagreed with this in a statement, in which he also told local media that the country does not have sufficient large tuna vessels to fish its seas and that processing for the EU market has created local employment.

Von Mally also met China’s vice minister for agriculture, Chen Xiaohua, who reminded the Mauritius visitor that both nations are members of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and “are highly complementary to each other in terms of fisheries.”

Chen outlined that Mauritius has a wide exclusive ocean economic zone and rich fisheries resources, while China has advanced aquaculture techniques which it is willing to share with Mauritius. More cooperation between the two sides was encouraged, spurring Chinese enterprises to invest in Mauritius. These investments will then also consequently lead to increased fishing activities, as has been observed in the Pacific. This will be the major challenge to the EU purse seiner fleet which until now dominates the Indian Ocean tuna fisheries sector.

According to SeafoodSource, Von Mally’s visit to China will be of interest to India, considering Mauritius as part of its back yard. Last month India signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with China, which will aim at rebalancing India’s trade deficit with China and institutionalize the import between the two countries. Now Chinese and Indian fishermen might soon start competing for the same Indian Ocean tuna resources.