New evidence shows Chinese, West African governments must rein in rogue fishing fleet 

Beijing/Dakar, 20 May 2015 – At least 74 fishing vessels owned and operated by four Chinese Distant Water Fishing (DWF)companies have been exposed for fishing illegally in prohibited fishing grounds in West Africa and falsifying their gross tonnage, according to findings from a two-year investigation by Greenpeace East Asia and Greenpeace Africa.

The investigation implicates the vessels in 82 cases of demonstrated and potential cases of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities and gross tonnage fraud, in Senegal, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Ghana, and includes China’s largest DWF company, China National Fisheries Corporation (CNFC). The cases date between 2000-2014, with the oldest case as far back as 1988.

“While China extended a hand in friendship during the Ebola outbreak, rogue Chinese companies were unlawfully exploiting West Africa’s marine environment. They were taking advantage of weak enforcement and supervision from local and Chinese authorities to the detriment of local fishermen and the environment,” said Rashid Kang, head of Greenpeace East Asia’s China Ocean Campaign.

“China’s Distant Water Fishing industry constitutes less than 0.1 percent of its global overseas investment. But unless the government reigns in this element of rogue companies, they will seriously jeopardize what the Chinese government calls its mutually-beneficial partnership with West Africa,” said Kang.

The most recent cases were witnessed by Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza, which sailed through the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea between 26 October and 21 November 2014. In Guinean waters alone, the shipdocumented 16 illegal fishing activities by 12 Chinese-flagged or owned vessels, making an average of one Chinese IUU case every two days while the MY Esperanza was at sea.

Recent Greenpeace Africa findings also show that Chinese Distant Water Fishing vessels are illegally falsifying vessel gross tonnage in Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea in 2014. China National Fisheries Corporation (CNFC), for instance, under-declared gross tonnage for 44 of the 59 vessels it operates in the three West African countries, which not only evades licensing fees, but also illegally gives these higher volume vessels access to prohibited areas. 

“While the Chinese government is starting to eliminate some of the most destructive fishing practices in its own waters, the loopholes in existing policies lead to a double standard in Africa. If China wants to be a genuine friend of Africa, it should follow the path of EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, which is slowly rectifying the EU’s own history of irresponsible fishing in the region,” said Ahmed Diamé, Greenpeace Africa Ocean Campaigner.

“The absence of efficient fisheries management in some West African states allows Distant Water Fishing companies to plunder marine resources with relative impunity. It’s time African governments strengthen governance and close all loopholes in existing laws,” said Diamé.

Over the last 15 years, Greenpeace has also investigated and exposed illegal and destructive fishing practices by EU, Korean and Russian fishing vessels in Africa. As a result of declining domestic fish stocks, Chinese companies have expanded their fishing operations in Africa from 13 vessels in 1985 to 462 vessels in 2013. Many of the companies operating in the region have history of illegal fishing activities.

Between 2000-2006 and 2011-2013, there were at least 183 documented IUU fishing cases in just six West African countries (Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone) – all of which involved Chinese owned or flagged vessels with at least 31% of them have engaged in illegal fishing activities more than once. Most of these vessels are bottom trawlers, one the most destructive fishing vessels in the industry.

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Download the full report: "Africa’s fisheries’ paradise at a crossroads"

Notes to editors:

  1. The report “Africa’s fisheries’ paradise at a crossroads
  2. Photos can be accessed here: http://photo.greenpeace.org/C.aspx?VP3=ViewBox_VPage&LBID=27MZKTYHTA0&CT=Lightbox
  3. Video evidence can be supplied on demand.

Media contacts: 

Tristan Tremschnig, Communications Hub Manager – Asia Pacific (Hong Kong), Greenpeace International, mobile: +852 9712 3301, email:

Zi Lin, Communication Officer, Greenpeace East Asia (Beijing), mobile: +8618911869884,

email: ,

Bakary Coulibaly, Communications Officer, Greenpeace Africa (Dakar), mobile: +221773336265 email:

 

 

 

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