China is not draining up marine resources

A recent post by a well-known travel blogger criticizing China for “depleting ocean fish stock” captured broad attention, and it drew a strong backlash from Chinese netizens and industry experts, who said that China should not be the only or major country to be accused of overfishing and excessive consumption drying up marine resources.

China is rich in aquaculture resources, accounting for more than 60 percent of the world’s farmed aquatic produce, experts said, noting what the blogger claimed in the post was groundless.

“We have noticed the post, which we believe is not supported by scientific evidences,” Cui He, president of the China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Alliance (CAPPMA), told the Global Times on Tuesday.

In a recent controversial post by travel blogger Gu Yue, who resides in the US and whose blog has over 2 million followers on China’s social media platform Sina Weibo, Gu claimed that as the world’s No.1 seafood consumer, China’s “insatiable” appetite for seafood is depleting oceans’ fish stock. Gu called on China to set a good example for the world and be a “responsible consumer” of global fish resources.

Gu’s post drew thousands of reposts and comments, with many questioning him over his untenable accusations about China’s fishing industry and market, before the post was deleted by the blogger himself.

A person with the China Fisheries Association described the post as “total nonsense” when reached by the Global Times on Tuesday.

“Most of China’s seafood industry depends on aquaculture, which accounts for 60-70 percent of the world’s aquaculture produce,” the person said.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Asia as a whole has dominated global aquaculture produce, accounting for 89-percent share in the last two decades. China was among the top producing countries in Asia, the report showed.

China remains the world’s largest producer of aquaculture, with a highly developed aquaculture industry, providing the country with more farmed aquatic products than the rest of the world combined since 1991.

China’s seafood production was estimated to be 64.8 million tons in 2019, basically unchanged from 64.58 million tons in 2018. The production of wild seafood rose by 100,000 tons while that of farmed seafood increased by 200,000 tons, the FAO said.

“China is the only major fishing country that produces more farmed fish than it catches, and it exports more seafood than many other countries,” noted Cui.

Given its large population, China is also regarded by many as a big potential seafood consuming market. But globally speaking, consumption of aquatic products in China is at a medium level, much lower than in Japan, not to mention that China’s seafood consumption is based on the free market economy, which has nothing to do with being “greedy,” Fan Xubing, president of Beijing Seabridge Marketing, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

China imports seafood mainly from Russia, the US and Norway, data from the CAPPMA showed.

“We import a large amount of cod, but it comes from Russia and the US, which follow very strict quotas every year,” said Cui.

In addition, squid, which is widely consumed by Chinese people, is recognized by the FAO as a kind of seafood that has no overfishing issue at the moment.

“As for the high consumption of prawns, almost all of them are cultivated on farms,” Cui said.

Experts said that the allegation is a reflection of the rising trend of dramatizing things related to China, exemplified by some US officials and the media for political purposes or based on bias.

A recent report by Radio Free Asia, a US government-funded non-profit news service, said that Chinese fishing boats’ illegal overfishing in the South Pacific is devastating to island economies.

Blue Ocean, an international information platform, said in its report titled “China’s Demand for Fish is Unsustainable,” that China has an exploding middle class with a growing appetite for fish and it also has the world’s largest fleet of deep-sea fishing boats, making it a leading player in the demise of ocean resources.

In response to the foreign allegations, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a regular press conference in December 2020 that China is committed to scientific conservation and sustainable use of fishery resources to promote sustainable development of the global fishery sector.

China has zero tolerance for violations of laws and regulations by ocean-going fishing vessels and has maintained close communication and cooperation with countries in the region over the years, said Hua.

Contrary to Western allegations, China strictly follows international standards, the management measures of relevant regional fishery organizations in fishing on the high seas and ship position monitoring, industry insiders said.

And, China’s compliance with the corresponding international and regional regulations has been well received by international fishery organizations.