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May 2024
Volume 24 Issue 3
COMPLIMENTARY

Fleet of Chinese fishing fleets off coast of Peru depleting fish

February 2024, General, Journal | 0 comments

February 2024

WORLD — In a situation that has rapidly evolved into a significant international concern, the waters off the coast of Peru have become the latest flashpoint in a growing dispute over fishing rights and marine conservation. The presence of an expansive fleet of Chinese fishing vessels, primarily targeting squid, has ignited a series of diplomatic and environmental alarms, raising questions about sustainable fishing practices, the role of government oversight, and international cooperation in resource management.
The focal point of this contention is a large distant-water fleet, predominantly Chinese-flagged, that has been operating near the Peruvian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Reports indicate that these vessels have frequently entered Peruvian ports under various pretexts, such as emergencies and crew changes. However, experts and environmental watchdogs have raised concerns about these vessels turning off their satellite systems near Peru’s territorial waters, a tactic often associated with illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities.
This development has not only caught the attention of Peruvian authorities but has also drawn the United States into the fray. The U.S. Coast Guard is now actively monitoring these fleets as part of a broader multinational effort to combat overfishing in South American waters. This involvement underscores the growing recognition of overfishing as a serious ecological and economic threat, with implications that extend far beyond the immediate region.
The Peruvian government, led by the Ministry of Production and supported by the Navy, has been vigilant in tracking these fleets. Despite these efforts, there is no concrete evidence that the Chinese vessels have violated Peruvian maritime boundaries. The situation, however, remains tense, with diplomatic exchanges between the U.S. and Chinese embassies in Lima revealing the complexity and sensitivity of the issue.
Local fishing industries in Peru and neighboring countries like Ecuador have expressed concerns over the impact of the Chinese fleet’s activities. The fleets’ presence, particularly around the edge of Peru’s territorial waters, poses a potential threat to the sustainability of local fishery resources. These concerns are mirrored in other South American countries, where similar Chinese fishing practices have been observed, leading to regional efforts to protect marine wildlife and confront IUU fishing.
The controversy has several layers, each contributing to the overall complexity of the situation. Firstly, there are allegations of inadequate oversight by the Peruvian government. Experts have criticized Peru’s Ministry of Production for not applying regulations effectively, particularly those concerning satellite tracking of foreign vessels. This lapse has allowed Chinese fleets to use domestic shipyards for activities like crew changes and document renewals, ostensibly in violation of Peruvian law. Lawyer and academic Piero Rojas pointed out the failure of national authorities in conducting proper inspections at port, a critical step in preventing IUU fishing.
Further complicating the issue is the practice of Chinese vessels turning off their tracking systems near Peru’s territorial waters. Eloy Aloni, a representative of the Lima-based consulting company Artisonal, highlighted this tactic as a major concern. This practice, aimed at concealing the vessels’ locations and fishing activities, directly contradicts the new rule requiring foreign vessels to carry an additional satellite system. Such actions not only breach regulations but also raise significant environmental and resource sustainability concerns.
The United States’ involvement through the Coast Guard reflects a broader international response to the challenge of overfishing, a problem that extends beyond the South American region. The U.S. embassy in Lima has explicitly voiced concerns about the environmental and economic damage caused by such practices. This stance has led to a diplomatic exchange with the Chinese embassy, which maintains that it values environmental protection and oceanic health.
Amidst these geopolitical tensions, local fishing communities in Peru and neighboring countries are feeling the impact. The Chinese fleet’s operations near the Peruvian EEZ are perceived as a direct threat to the sustainability of local fish stocks, crucial for both local consumption and the economy. Cayetana Aljovín, president of the National Society on Fishing in Peru, called attention to the unregulated nature of the fleet’s activities and their potential to negatively impact the Peruvian ecosystem.
The regional impact of the Chinese fleet’s activities is not confined to Peru. The fleet has been observed engaging in similar practices in Argentine and Chilean waters, leading to concerns about a broader pattern of behavior in South American maritime territories. This has prompted several Latin American countries to take protective measures against IUU fishing. In 2020, Ecuador, Chile, Colombia, and Peru issued a joint statement committing to confront these practices to ensure the long-term subsistence of fishery resources.
The situation off the coast of Peru is emblematic of a global challenge – the struggle to balance the demands of a growing global fishing industry with the need to preserve marine ecosystems. The Chinese fleet’s presence in South American waters is part of a larger pattern of distant-water fleets exploiting global marine resources. These fleets, often subsidized by their governments, operate in a largely unregulated international space, leading to overfishing and ecological degradation.
In response to these challenges, international organizations and regional alliances are stepping up efforts to regulate distant-water fishing activities. The World Trade Organization (WTO), for example, is pushing negotiations to reach a multilateral agreement to set new rules for the global fishing industry. These rules aim to limit government funding that contributes to overfishing and to promote sustainable fishing practices worldwide.
On the ground, the response from South American countries has been varied but increasingly coordinated. Increased satellite monitoring, patrolling of EEZs, and heightened enforcement measures are some of the steps being taken to combat IUU fishing. These efforts are critical in ensuring the long-term sustainability of fish stocks and the health of marine ecosystems.
The situation off the coast of Peru is a stark reminder of the interconnectedness of global and local environmental challenges. As nations grapple with the implications of distant-water fishing fleets in their waters, the need for comprehensive and cooperative international policies becomes increasingly evident. Only through such collective efforts can a balance be struck between economic needs and environmental sustainability.
The Peruvian situation also highlights the broader geopolitical dimensions of the issue. The presence of the Chinese fishing fleet and the involvement of the U.S. Coast Guard are not just about fishing rights and marine conservation. They are also indicative of the strategic jostling between major global powers in resource-rich areas. As the world’s second-largest producer of copper, a significant portion of which is bought by China, Peru finds itself at the intersection of these geopolitical interests. The diplomatic exchanges between the U.S. and Chinese embassies in Lima reflect the delicate balance Peru must maintain in its relations with both these global superpowers.
Moreover, the situation sheds light on the need for robust international legal frameworks to govern the high seas. Current international laws, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), provide a basis for maritime governance, but enforcing these laws in international waters remains a significant challenge. Strengthening these legal frameworks and ensuring their effective enforcement is crucial to preventing overfishing and preserving marine ecosystems.
The economic implications of the Chinese fleet’s activities in South American waters are also profound. The overexploitation of fish stocks threatens not only the ecological balance but also the livelihoods of local communities that depend on fishing. The potential depletion of fish stocks could have long-term economic repercussions, particularly for countries where fishing is a major industry.
The presence of the Chinese fishing fleet off the coast of Peru is a complex issue with environmental, economic, geopolitical, and legal dimensions. It requires a nuanced understanding and a multi-faceted response that balances local interests with global sustainability goals. As the situation continues to evolve, it will be crucial for all stakeholders to engage in constructive dialogue and collaborative action to ensure the sustainable management of marine resources.
— Stephen Lightman

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