Riding a sea warrior in the East Pacific (AP) — Jose Lopez proudly remembers his first catch. He was 13 years old and a local skipper hired him as a spare hand, pitiing the appearance of Ragamuffin. When he got home, his pocket was full of daily wages, his mother protested. “She thought I stole
Riding a sea warrior in the East Pacific (AP) — Jose Lopez proudly remembers his first catch. He was 13 years old and a local skipper hired him as a spare hand, pitiing the appearance of Ragamuffin. When he got home, his pocket was full of daily wages, his mother protested.
“She thought I stole my money,” Lopez recalls in between noisy greetings to a young companion who simply knows him as “pepe.” “I had to take her to the fisherman so that she believed in me.”
Since then, fishing has become a way of life for Lopez and dozens of other micro-fishermen in Puxana, a harbor carved from barren desert-like hills south of the Peruvian capital. Over the years, the fleet thrived and Lopez earned enough money to buy a few boats and send his children to college.
But ten years ago, the tuna he once caught effortlessly began to disappear. So the fishermen turned the brightly colored boats named after the Roman Catholic icons into squids.
Now they are facing new threats. It is the Chinese pelagic fishing fleet.
According to the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (SPRFMO), the number of Chinese vessels lurking just outside the waters of Peru surged from 54 in 2009 to 557 in 2020. squid. Meanwhile, China’s catch increased from 70,000 tonnes in 2009 to 358,000 tonnes.
This story is a joint project between The Associated Press and the Spanish broadcaster Univision.
Fishing in China takes place on the high seas, outside the jurisdiction of any country, and at night light as strong as it can be seen from space is used to attract a herd of flying squids.
“It’s really like the wild west there,” said Captain Peter Hanmarstedt, director of the campaign for the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd. “No one is responsible for execution.”
The Associated Press with the Spanish broadcaster Univision will accompany Sea Shepherd on an 18-day voyage on one of its vessels to observe the Chinese fleet up close on the high seas off the west coast of South America. bottom.
Patrol was prompted by protests last summer when hundreds of Chinese vessels were found fishing near the Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Launched in the 1980s in response to the depletion of domestic fish resources and the need to feed a rapidly growing population, China’s pelagic fishing boats have evolved into a prosperous industry, ensuring access to the world’s declining world. Has become part of the geopolitical impetus for. Natural resources.
Daniel Pauly, a prominent marine biologist at the University of British Columbia, said: “The difference is that everything China does is great, so you see it.”
The majority of the 30 vessels observed by AP show a history of allegations of labor abuse, past convictions for illegal fishing, or signs of possible violations of maritime law. In summary, these issues have been dominated by the United States for a long time, and the open ocean around the Americas, where China is joking for influence, has been a factor in attracting the worst criminals in the seafood industry. I emphasize that.
One vessel, Fu Yuan Yu 7880, is operated by an affiliate of Pingtan Marine Enterprise, a company traded on Nasdaq, and Chinese executives have canceled their US visas due to suspected trafficking. The company also faces charges of illegal fishing and forced labor around the world. Pingtan declined to comment.
Named after the nutrient-rich ocean currents found on the southwest coast of South America, Humboldt squid is one of the most abundant marine species. Some scientists even believe that the sea may be prosperous as the sea warms and its predators, sharks and tuna, are gone.
However, experts point out the past disappearance of squid stocks elsewhere as a source of concern, even if it is unclear how many Humboldt squids remain.
William Gilly, a marine biologist at Stanford University who has spent decades studying squids, said:
Last year, China imposed stricter penalties on companies that violated the rules. They also ordered an off-season moratorium for squid fishing on the high seas.
US seafood companies are beginning to look at the risks posed by China’s expansion and are looking to leverage market power to increase transparency in squid sourcing. China accounted for about half of the $ 314 million squid imported by the United States in 2019, most of which was used as fried squid in restaurants.
One alternative is to introduce technologies such as publicly available tracking data to allow consumers to identify the ship that ultimately caught the fish.
However, increasing transparency is a challenge that the industry has been tackling for decades.
To address concerns, some South American governments have proposed a number of safeguards, including banning transshipments at sea and increasing the number of ship observers to record catches and violations.
But China is against each proposal.
“China doesn’t seem to be very interested in expanding protection,” said Tabisa Mallory, a scholar specializing in China’s fishing policy at the University of Washington. “They obey the wording of the law, but not the spirit.”
Without stricter controls, Lopez and his cohort would have to venture far away from home and spend a week at sea to carry what they caught in a day. That’s when they’re all back: in June, three fishermen set out to never be seen again.
In addition to fishermen’s frustration, there is Peruvian logistical support for the Chinese fleet — their direct competitors. According to the Peruvian government, since 2019, 212 Chinese fishing vessels have invaded Peruvian ports for repairs, crew changes and supplies.
“There is no maritime authority to defend us,” Lopez complains. He says he has lost count of the number of times he has notified authorities about Chinese vessels fishing in the waters of Peru. “I don’t know what power foreigners have to come to my house and do what they want to do.”
AP writer Joe Macdonald and AP researcher Ubin in Beijing, AP Global Investigation intern Roselin Romero in San Luis Obispo, CA, AP writer Edna Tarrigan and Ninical Mini in Jakarta contributed to this report.
Follow Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman
Contact AP’s Global Investigative Team at Investigative@ap.org or https://www.ap.org/tip
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