In the wake of the recent revelations concerning the use of forced labour in China’s seafood industry and the opacity of data relating to its distant waters fisheries, the European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling for greater transparency from China on its distant waters fleets as well as its third country agreements. The resolution was adopted with 573 votes to 11 and 30 abstentions.
‘How many Chinese fishing vessels are there?’ Asked PECH Committee Chairman Pierre Karleskind in his presentation.
‘2700 as China states – or 17,000 as the FAO estimates? What do many countries’ fisheries agreements with China contain? How many African-flagged ships are Chinese-owned? At this stage, it is difficult to implement concrete measures to combat illegal practices repeatedly reported such as illegal fishing, forced labor or shark finning.’
He pointed out that the European Union has instruments to combat illegal fishing in 2007 and against human rights violations (2020), and that revelations by Outlaw Ocean Project show that further action is needed.
‘How can we ensure that the seafood products that European consumers buy do not come from a Chinese company practicing illegal fishing or forced labor? We propose that the requirements be strengthened in terms of transparency of the activities of Chinese fleets, traceability of imported products and control with regard to Chinese companies so that the opacity ends and real sanctions can be taken against companies practicing illegal fishing or forced labour,’ Pierre Karleskind told the EU Parliament.
As China has increased its exports to the EU market, in particular tuna, through autonomous tariff quotas, MEPs want the Commission to assess the impact of these imports on European industry and adapt as necessary.
In addition, MEPs want member states to enforce EU law on the catch report and traceability system and state that the digitalisation of IUU catch certificates via the CATCH system will reduce opportunities for fraudulent imports. They also want member states and the Commission to provide information on the volume of products caught by Chinese vessels entering the EU market.
The EU Parliament notes that the intensive activity of the Chinese fleet is depleting fisheries resources, while engaging in inhumane working conditions and human rights violations.
Consequently, MEPs urge the Commission to step up international co-operation in the fight against IUU fishing and associated labour and human rights abuses, as well as adopt restrictive measures against companies that do not respect human rights.
‘Between 1983, when the Common Fisheries Policy was set up, and today – forty years later – the share of Chinese fishing around the world has gone from 5% to 15% cent of global catches. Governments and NGOs have indicated a number of practices that we consider may be illegal and could jeopardise food security,’ rapporteur Pierre Karleskind said during this week’s plenary session.
‘Concerning fish-related products in Europe – are we sure they don’t come from China, where there is forced labour or illegal fishing practices? We need to strengthen transparency, traceability and control with China, but also co-operation.”