China’s Role in the Exploitation of Global Fisheries

Congressional Research Service – China has emerged as the world’s largest exploiter of fisheries on a global, not just regional, scale. Chinese fleets are active in waters far from China’s shores, and the growth in their harvests threatens to worsen the already dire depletion in global fisheries. China leads the world in seafood production from aquaculture, inland (freshwater) fisheries, and marine fisheries. The expansion and modernization of fisheries is a key part of China’s broader industrial policy goals of upgrading their agricultural industries and improving domestic food security. China has developed the world’s largest fishing fleet of vessels operating in domestic and neighboring coastal inshore and offshore areas, as well as a distant-water fleet (DWF) active in many parts of the world. China is a major hub for value-added processing in seafood supply chains and it is the world’s largest seafood processor; much of what China processes is exported to other countries. China is also the largest importer and producer of fishmeal for use in aquaculture. The magnitude of China’s seafood production and consumption has implications for international trade, fisheries conservation and management, and allocation of fishery resources among fishing and coastal nations. Many in Congress are interested in China’s involvement in fisheries around the world because of efforts to conserve marine resources globally, and the fishing industry’s intersection with regional conflicts and transnational criminal activities that impact U.S. national security.