Saturday, May 6, 2017

China Destroys World Fisheries

When people say globalization they usually are referring to the greater corporate economic integration between and among the so-called Third World and Europe and the US. Depending on whom you are speaking to, this can be a good or bad thing. The problem however is that different nations on the planet have different footprints in their economic impact on the planet. Numbers matter. If one or two people cut across your lawn once or twice a week it might not be worth your while to make a big stink about it and get into a nasty fight with the trespassers. I mean life is short right? Why waste your time in conflict? But if a few hundred people decide to do the same thing every day then you have to do something or soon you won't have a lawn. You will have to show a more unpleasant side of your personality. China is not the source of all evil in the world today. Not by a long shot. But China's immense population and ever growing demand for natural resources are putting tremendous stress on resources that may not be as renewable as we once thought. 

Joal, Senegal — Once upon a time, the seas teemed with mackerel, squid and sardines, and life was good. But now, on opposite sides of the globe, sun-creased fishermen lament as they reel in their nearly empty nets.“Your net would be so full of fish, you could barely heave it onto the boat,” said Mamadou So, 52, a fisherman in Senegal, gesturing to the meager assortment of tiny fish flapping in his wooden canoe. A world away in eastern China, Zhu Delong, 75, also shook his head as his net dredged up a disappointing array of pinkie-size shrimp and fledgling yellow croakers. “When I was a kid, you could cast a line out your back door and hook huge yellow croakers,” he said. “Now the sea is empty.”

Overfishing is depleting oceans across the globe, with 90 percent of the world’s fisheries fully exploited or facing collapse, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. From Russian king crab fishermen in the west Bering Sea to Mexican ships that poach red snapper off the coast of Florida, unsustainable fishing practices threaten the well-being of millions of people in the developing world who depend on the sea for income and food, experts say. But China, with its enormous population, growing wealth to buy seafood and the world’s largest fleet of deep-sea fishing vessels, is having an outsize impact on the globe’s oceans. 

Having depleted the seas close to home, Chinese fishermen are sailing farther to exploit the waters of other countries, their journeys often subsidized by a government more concerned with domestic unemployment and food security than the health of the world’s oceans and the countries that depend on them. Increasingly, China’s growing armada of distant-water fishing vessels is heading to the waters of West Africa, drawn by corruption and weak enforcement by local governments.

West Africa, experts say, now provides the vast majority of the fish caught by China’s distant-water fleet. And by some estimates, as many as two-thirds of those boats engage in fishing that contravenes international or national laws. China’s distant-water fishing fleet has grown to nearly 2,600 vessels (the United States has fewer than one-tenth as many), with 400 boats coming into service between 2014 and 2016 alone. Most of the Chinese ships are so large that they scoop up as many fish in one week as Senegalese boats catch in a year, costing West African economies $2 billion a year, according to a new study published by the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

You would think that, having had the unpleasant experience of being ripped off for natural resources by European nations, African nations might be a bit quicker to recognize and stand up to similar actions by China but so far this has not been the case overall. In this world weakness doesn't seem to invite compassion and concern so much as it invites contempt and exploitation. If China's insatiable demand for food and penchant for bullying behavior aren't checked then we'll see more instability in and emigration from African nations. If people can't eat or make money they will get upset, cause problems or leave their country. And most likely many of the people will head for Europe. And that will set off an entirely new set of problems because, as should be obvious by now, most European nations are not exactly warm and hospitable towards people of African descent, especially if said people are entering their nations without permission. We discussed China's impact on the world's environment a few years back. It is not baseless yellow peril scaremongering to suggest that under the new globalized system, people who care about the flora and fauna of this planet will have to work even harder to convince Chinese based corporate and national interests (and just as importantly their US or European partners) to do the same. A lot of those Chinese fishing ships are also catching fish for export to the US or Europe.

If China doesn't change we will see more waves of migration towards Europe and eventually oceans with no fish and few other living things. It's a cliche but this planet is all we have. Right now we can not move to or live anywhere else in the solar system. China is too big to bully or bomb into reasonable behavior. The window for that approach probably passed with the Korean War. China has its own nationalist grievances and resentments that will influence its stance towards the rest of the world. Still there are pressure points that the rest of the world can and must use to convince China to change its ways. It would be in everyone's interest if this tragedy of the commons could be halted and reversed. If all the fish in the oceans disappear we're probably looking at some highly unpleasant circumstances for everyone on the planet. We can't let one nation p**s in the punchbowl just because it thinks it never got its turn to do so. Know better. Do better. 

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