EU calls for greater scrutiny of China’s distant water fishing fleet

In September, the European Parliament Committee on Fisheries unanimously adopted, in full, a report on the implications of Chinese fishing operations on EU fisheries.

The size of China’s fleet, coupled with the high instances of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and human rights (HR) abuses it is responsible for, threatens socio-economic stability and inflicts human and ecological harm globally. 

In 2022, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) exposed 554 suspected IUU/HR abuses involving the Chinese distant water fleet across the world’s ocean in just three years, from 2019 to 2022.

This means it is key that the EU steps up its ability to act. Illegal fishing is often associated with forced labor, including in distant water fleets from outside the EU. Like illegal fishing, forced labor is a global problem which can directly undercut legal operators in the EU. Unlike illegal fishing, the EU currently lacks tools to incentivize non-EU governments to take action against forced labor.

The Forced Labor Regulation currently under negotiation in the European Parliament should change this by introducing a carding system for forced labor, as the fisheries committee has recommended. This report is a step in the right direction; now the EU will need concrete action to eradicate forced labor at the source.

Photo credit: iStock/ Tomas Ragina

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