by Prasad Nallapati*
South China Sea is not the only region facing China’s aggressive expansion, it has now spread to all the seas across the globe, raising alarm bells among littoral states and environmental groups. Encouraged and subsidized by the Communist regime, Chinese fishermen are bullying their way into distant seas, often venturing illegally into territorial waters of littoral states, with no concern to damage to marine life and coastal eco-systems. Friends or Foes, no one is spared, not even its all-weather Ironclad ally, Pakistan.
Chinese appetite for seafood is growing exponentially. The consumption of seafood has grown at a rate of 6 percent per annum since the year 1990, accounting for 34 percent of all the fish consumed globally by the year 2010. It is expected to grow by another 30 percent by 2030.
Domestic waters have long been depleted of much of their fish stocks. The Yangtze river used to account for 60 percent of the country’s total fish production until a few years ago, but it now yields less than 0.2 percent of the roughly 60 million tonnes consumed in a year. As it is no more viable for fishing, a 10-year ban is imposed from next year on fishing in some parts of the Yangtze river to protect its biodiversity, according to Vice Agricultural Minister Yu Kangzhen. Fishing was already restricted this year in 332 protection zones along the river. This will make more than 100,000 fishing vessels redundant while some 300,000 fishermen will have to be relocated, which is perhaps unprecedented.
This is one of the reasons for China’s aggressive territorial claims over the seas inside its arbitrarily drawn Nine-dash line of the South China Sea and its building of artificial islands there, while ignoring rightful claims of other coastal states. Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines bore the brunt of this aggrandizement. Even Japan and Koreas in the East Sea are not spared. Illegal fishing of Asian waters constituted a third of the entire regional catch worth billions of dollars. As a result, roughly 50 percent of the South China sea fish stock were fully exploited, 25 percent over-exploited and the other 25 percent completely collapsed, thus aggravating maritime relations of the littoral states of the region.
With fish reserves fast dwindling in domestic waters as well as the South China Sea, which often led to more frequent violent clashes between the Chinese fishermen and those of other littoral states, Beijing has subsidized its fishermen to acquire modern trawlers to move farther out to sea, all the way as far as Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf, Atlantic, South Pacific and even Antarctica’s coasts where they encounter much less competition and local coast guard protection.
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