Threat to Security

Maritime incidents involving Chinese fishermen seem to have become a major trigger for maritime tensions and clashes. Overfishing and illegal fishing are increasingly threatening the sustainability of the global fishing industry, as well as turning many poor fishermen in Africa into pirates.  China’s expanding Distant Water Fishing (DWF) operations pose a number of challenges to global maritime security.

China’s Evolving Fishing Industry: Implications for Regional and Global Maritime Security

Introduction

July 2012: 36 Chinese fishermen were detained and two ships were seized after being fired upon by the Russian coastguard for entering an exclusive economic zone in its far eastern Primorsky region.

April 2012: A fishing dispute involving Chinese fishermen who were accused of illegally fishing in the disputed area led to a serious maritime standoff between Chinese and Philippine vessels.

March 2012: One Chinese fisherman, believed to be fishing illegally off the Pacific island nation, was killed by Republic of Palau police officers and another 25 Chinese fishermen were detained.

December 2011: A Chinese fishing boat captain stabbed two South Korean coastguards, killing one, which triggered intense tension between China and South Korea.

September 2010: The arrest of the captain of a Chinese trawler by Japan after a collision dramatically increased tensions between China and Japan over Diaoyu Island.

November 2008: A Chinese fishing vessel was hijacked by pirates armed with grenade launchers and automatic weapons off the coast of Kenya, which aroused strong indignation in China.

These are headlines of maritime incidents involving Chinese fishermen in recent years.

The list is far from complete. For instance, according to China’s official statistics, from 1989 to 2010, in the South China Sea waters alone, there were 380 cases of Chinese fishermen being attacked, robbed, detailed or killed by neighboring countries with over 750 fishing vessels and 11,300 fishermen involved.

Maritime incidents involving Chinese fishermen seem to have become a major trigger for maritime tensions and clashes in the region. Meanwhile, while overfishing and illegal fishing are increasingly threatening the sustainability of the global fishing industry, as well as turning many poor fishermen in Africa into pirates, China’s expanding Distant Water Fishing (DWF) operations pose further challenges to global maritime security.

As maritime conflicts have already emerged as one of the top threats to economic prosperity, peace and stability in the region and the world, it is of critical importance to reduce and manage these potential flashpoints.

Towards this end, fishing disputes as well as maritime security incidents involving China fishermen deserve serious attention. While much of the research has been focused on China’s confrontational actions, attitudes and internal politics, little attention has been given to the impact of China’s evolving fishing industry on regional and global maritime security.

This paper examines the evolution of China’s fishing industry, and its implications for maritime security at both regional and global levels. The paper begins with a brief overview of China’s fishing industry and then discusses China’s supply and demand imbalances for aquatic products. Following that, it touches on the government’s attempts to address the imbalances.

Next, after outlining the structural shifts of China’s fishing industry, it analyzes the impact and implications of the structural shifts of China’s fishing sector on regional and global maritime security. The last section of the paper summarizes the main points.

Access the full document here: China’s Evolving Fishing Industry

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