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Política Internacional / 22/07/2021


Chinese illegal fishing in South America impacts local ecosystems and economies

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Chinese illegal fishing in South America impacts local ecosystems and economies

After drying up the fishing sources in China, fishing boats have been heading to the waters of the South Pacific, evading inspections.

The presence of Chinese fishing fleets in the south of the Pacific Ocean has caused environmental impacts and raised concerns about illegal activities in South America. The information comes Borgen Magazine, a vehicle that addresses poverty and human rights.

After drying up their fishing supplies in China, the boats have been heading into the waters of the South Pacific, along the South American west coast. Between July and August 2020 alone, around 300 Chinese fishing boats recorded more than 73,000 hours of activity in a region close to the Galapagos Islands – Ecuador's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) -, a number that represents 99% of fishing in that area.

Such operations have contributed to the reduction of the fish population, loss of biodiversity and destruction of marine habitats, factors that have resulted in a drop in productivity in the sector. To protect the local economy and ecosystems, several countries on the continent are joining forces to combat illegal Chinese activity in their waters.

Peru and Chile are also suffering the entry of illegal fishing boats into their EEZs and denounce that Chinese vessels turn off radars to fish in unregulated protected waters.

The Chinese fleet mainly chases squid. According to an association of fishermen in Peru, 50,000 tons of mollusk were caught in Peruvian waters.

economic impacts

Chinese fisheries are responsible for the largest share of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU – illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing) in the world. Surveys show that at least 183 vessels in China's distant water fishing fleet (DWF) have participated in IUU fishing.

Illegality leads to economic losses for governments, the livelihoods of native fishermen and companies in the fish supply chain.

The account is simple: by taking income local markets and fishermen, poverty increases in these regions. And less developed countries are more vulnerable due to a lack of resources to effectively combat and monitor fisheries.

It is estimated that 24% of marine catches in the Pacific Ocean go unreported each year. Of these, 50% are traded illegally, causing $4.3 billion to $8.3 billion in direct revenue losses.


Illegal fishing in South America has been heavily criticized around the world. In response, China claims to have implemented new policies and regulations, committing to take a stronger stance on sustainability, ocean protection and compliance with international fisheries regulations.

Latin countries have been struggling to solve this problem. Panama, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica and Brazil support increased transparency and monitoring through open data.

In support, the United States has provided South American countries with nearly 50 boats since 2015. In addition, Washington says it plans to send 15 training teams.

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