China is expanding the size of its fishing boat fleet to try to provide enough food for its citizens and to export. But as the boats travel the world, they are often criticized for overfishing and for having conflicts with ships from other countries, especially in disputed parts of the South China Sea.
China is the world’s largest producer and exporter of fish. About half of the seafood it produces is exported to developed countries. It is also the biggest consumer of seafood.
Duncan Ledbetter is the director of Fish Matter, a fisheries and natural resources consulting company. He says China’s poor environmental and fishing practices have forced it to search for fish around the world.
"Well, you’ve got two things happening. One is plain and simple: overfishing. And then the second, which is sort of widespread, north to south, and from close in shore out to, you know, the edge of the continental shelf. But then you’ve also, particularly inshore, got some pretty significant pollution problems and habitat loss problems."
China now has 2,000 fishing boats, more than any other country. In 2013, an European Parliament study estimated that between 2000 and 2011 Chinese fishermen caught 4.6 million tons of fish every year. It said most of the fish came from African waters. The rest came from Asia and smaller amounts from Central and South America and Antarctica.
Peter Jennings is the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. He is also a former senior official in the Australian Department of Defense. He says China’s decision to expand where it searches for fish gives it a chance to increase its influence in areas that are important to its future.
Last month, a Chinese company said it would expand its fishing operations to Antarctica. The announcement followed the opening of a fourth Chinese research station on Antarctica. China also has two large icebreaker ships, as well as planes and helicopters on Antarctica.
Tensions between China and other countries have risen because of China’s increased fishing activities. Last month, Indonesia destroyed a Chinese boat that it claimed was fishing illegally in Indonesian waters. And South Korea says the number of Chinese fishing boats operating in its waters is growing every year. More than 1,000 Chinese fishing ships illegally fished in South Korean waters in 2014.
I'm Jonathan Evans.
Shannon Van Sant reported this story from Hong Kong. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.
Words in This Story
fleet – n. a group of ships or vehicles that move or work together or that are controlled or owned by one company
habitat – n. the place or type of place where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives or grows
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