This article from Foreign Policy looks at the military, economic, environmental, and humanitarian implications of China's vast fishing fleet trawling international -- and other countries' -- waters:
"The Chinese fishing fleet only ventured further afield in 1985, when 13 trawlers were sent to plough northwest Africa’s fish-rich coastal waters. Today, according to a report by the British Overseas Development Institute, China’s blue-water fishing fleet is by far the world’s largest, and includes 12,490 unique vessels that were observed to have been fishing outside China’s internationally recognized EEZ in 2017 and 2018. That’s many times more than previous estimates, and very different from China’s own claim of having only 3,000 ships fishing international or other countries’ waters—but that’s only because China doesn’t recognize the United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty’s demarcation of maritime borders. Though China isn’t alone in its destructive fishing practices, it stands apart by virtue of its sheer size and the extent to which it pushes its highly subsidized fleet across the world’s oceans. It’s also the only country whose fishing fleet has a geopolitical mission, taking over weaker countries’ waters and expanding Beijing’s maritime territorial ambitions. One of the malicious consequences of all this is that China’s monster fishing fleet robs poorer nations—from North Korea to the countries of West Africa—of desperately needed protein.
"... But the real force driving this and other human-rights disasters is China’s hunger for seafood. China’s 1.4 billion people not only consume 38 percent of global fish production, but indulge in one of the highest per-capita consumption rates of fish and seafood, both wild and farmed, in the world—37.8 kilograms per person per year, up from only 7 kilograms per person per year in 1985, according to figures provided by China to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. While much has been written about Chinese overfishing, it’s only recently become possible to document its vast extent, thanks to new satellite technologies such as those providing data to Global Fishing Watch. The same tracking technology that is used to prevent vessels from hiding or circumventing sanctions shows that China’s fishing fleet appears engaged, often illegally, in the effort to haul in as much seafood as it can, as fast as it can, in as many places as it can—with little regard for how its practices affect malnourished people or diminish the stocks of their fish. This effort is not simply the sum of individual decisions made by skippers. It is government policy, because most vessels are in effect paid to fish by the Chinese government, which covers the fleet’s main operating expense: fuel. ... Besides its gigantic size and extreme level of subsidies, there is a third characteristic that sets the Chinese fishing fleet apart: its use by Beijing as a tool of expansion. ... China is the only country with a strategic fishing fleet. Of the crew on the vessels operating in the South China Sea, [China analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Greg] Poling said 'either they’re fishers paid to go fish somewhere, and that’s the only reason they do it, or they are officially in the militia, which means they never fish—they just use fishing boats to monitor other fleets, run supplies, or ram other boats.'"
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