By Justin Pearce
China’s economy and population are growing rapidly. As their population increases, so does the demand for food. Feeding 1.3 billion people is no small feat, so being resourceful is essential; China has started looking everywhere possible for food, including the world’s oceans, lakes, and rivers. Can a country so large remain resourceful and sustainable in its search to find enough seafood to support its people? The answer to this question will have worldwide ramifications, as most major oceanic fisheries are in decline and may not be able to withstand increased fishing pressure.
You cannot blame the Chinese people for turning to their own bodies of water for food and profit. The Chinese Exclusive Economic Zone (which is a subject of constant dispute with neighboring countries) extends 200 nautical miles from the coast and encompasses approximately 2,285,872 km2. Chinese territory and territorial waters range from temperate zones to tropical zones and include four major seas (the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, and the East and South China Seas). With nearly 3000 marine species in these waters, some of the major commercial fisheries include squid, yellow croaker, red snapper, cod, sea cucumber, and shrimp.
Just as China is the most populous country in the world, it also has the largest fleet of fishing vessels. In 2004, the marine fishing fleet consisted of 279,937 motorized vessels (FAO 2013). During the period from 2000 to 2010 there was an average of 1,800 vessels operating in distant waters (Blomeyer 2012).
Although the large figures given when talking about the available fishing waters in China seem limitless, that is not true. Fortunately, back in the 1970’s the Chinese government was able to understand that concept. More....