China's Oceans are Overfished; So China is Stealing 1.2 Billion Kilos of Fish from Philippine Waters

China is stealing 1.2 billion kilos of fish a year from Filipinos. That’s in just two of eight reefs that China grabbed in the West Philippine Sea, experts say. The loot is in stark contrast to Filipinos’ dwindling catch in the area.

Government must resist China’s incessant poaching. Coupled with China’s continuing militarization in the WPS, 350,000 Filipino fishermen are being driven out of livelihoods.

Coral reefs are a major Filipino source of seafood. China intrusion and reef destruction directly affects 26 percent of Filipinos, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said in 2016.

Articles Inside:

China has fished itself out of its own waters, so Chinese fishermen are now sticking their rods in other nations’ seas -

The Consequences of China’s Booming Demand for Seafood -

China stealing 1.2 B kilos of fish per year from Phl -

AFP: Dozens of Chinese vessels spotted near Pag-asa Island -

China Dumps Chemicals & Kills Fish Around Kalayaan Island To Drive Away Filipino Fishermen -

‘Chinese coast guard regularly intimidate Filipino fishermen’ -

Duterte says he allows Chinese vessels to fish in Philippine waters to prevent war -

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China has fished itself out of its own waters, so Chinese fishermen are now sticking their rods in other nations’ seas

The growth of China’s middle class over the past 15 years or so has driven up demand for all sorts of luxury goods in the country. For example, there’s been a growing interest in high-quality seafood—which comes at a most inopportune time.

Efforts to boost China’s marine economy in recent decades, including offshore drilling and unsustainable fishing practices like trawling, has resulted in a dramatic depletion of its own fishing stock. Efforts have been made in response to this environmental damage: Since the 1990s, Beijing has implemented an annual summer moratorium on fishing in the South China Sea, and agriculture minister Han Changfu recently announced plans to cut back on the size of the world’s largest fishing fleet to protect its stocks. (China’s Ministry of Agriculture did not respond to a request for comment.)

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But in order to sate its population’s rising desire for nice pieces of fish—and to continue exporting seafood abroad to trading nations—the Middle Kingdom’s fishing vessels have resorted to catch throughout the high seas (i.e., international waters) and, possibly through illegal practices, in other countries’ coastal domains.

In 2016, a number of Chinese fishing vessels were shot at for fishing in other nations’ exclusive economic zones, areas of water off countries’ coastlines where those countries have sole rights to pursue economic activity.

The total number of Chinese fishing boats sailing on the high seas and in other countries’ coastal areas runs just under 2,500.

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The Consequences of China’s Booming Demand for Seafood

Seafood consumption per capita in China has recently surpassed pork, according to China’s Ministry of Agriculture, and that has repercussions for ocean ecosystems in the country and beyond.

Several factors are responsible for shifting Chinese diets in a different direction. Incomes have risen, for instance, so people can afford seafood, which is typically pricier than other meats, says Yvonne Sadovy, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Hong Kong. Its priciness also makes it a status symbol, she says, and it regularly shows up on the menu at banquets and weddings. Also, public health campaigns are encouraging Chinese people to choose lower fat proteins. Plus, food production scandals have led people to view wild foods as healthier, she adds.

And the Chinese really love seafood, says Peter Redmayne, president of Sea Fare Expositions, a US-based business that organizes an annual seafood trade show in China. Citing a proverb, he adds, “Without fish there is no dinner.”

Due to these factors and China’s population of nearly 1.4 billion, the country consumed more seafood in 2013 than the next nine countries combined. One-fifth of the global catch volume goes to satiating its demand for wild-caught fish.

Intensive fishing in Chinese waters over the past few decades has dramatically reduced fish stocks. And other human activities have fueled the decline as well, destroying half of China’s coastal wetlands, 57 percent of mangroves, and 80 percent of coral reefs, all critical fish spawning, nursing, and feeding grounds. A 2017 paper summarized the issue: “Some large marine ecosystems, most notably in the Bohai Sea, have been degraded to the point of becoming dead zones.”

To turn this around, China’s most recent five-year plan calls for several fisheries and ocean management reforms that are in line with President Xi Jinping’s agenda for an “eco-civilization” that would shift Chinese society toward sustainable development.

The reforms are ambitious. But they may not be realized. The 2017 paper, which outlines the past four decades in Chinese fisheries management, points out that institutional barriers—inadequate data, monitoring constraints, lack of an appropriate institutional structure, insufficient enforcement, and widespread indiscriminate fishing practices—have rendered impotent fisheries protections dating back to 1982.

Echoing these concerns is a seafood metrics report that ranked China 25th of 28 countries surveyed on a fisheries governance index, rating low in efficiency and effectiveness in research, management, enforcement, and other areas.

Enforcement, at least, may be improving. This year’s annual summer moratorium on all inland and ocean fishing started in May and will run to September, the longest period yet, says Mark Godfrey, a contributing editor for the newswire Seafood Source. He lives in China and covers the country’s fisheries extensively. The Ministry of Agriculture, which oversees the moratorium, has funded patrol boats and encouraged the police to arrest people.

“They’ve really been prosecuting it much more energetically this year than any year I’ve seen,” says Godfrey. Chinese media has been full of stories about people getting caught fishing illegally. “It shows how seriously they’re taking it this year,” he says.

Unfortunately, China’s resolve to manage its waters sustainably is just pushing the fishing elsewhere.

China stealing 1.2 B kilos of fish per year from Phl

China has fished itself out of its own waters, so Chinese fishermen are now sticking their rods in other nations’ seas. Photo Source:

China is stealing 1.2 billion kilos of fish a year from Filipinos. That’s in just two of eight reefs that China grabbed in the West Philippine Sea, experts say. The loot is in stark contrast to Filipinos’ dwindling catch in the area.

Government must resist China’s incessant poaching. Coupled with China’s continuing militarization in the WPS, 350,000 Filipino fishermen are being driven out of livelihoods.

Coral reefs are a major Filipino source of seafood. China intrusion and reef destruction directly affects 26 percent of Filipinos, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said in 2016.

Fish are Filipinos’ cheapest source of food protein. The 1.2 billion kilos of fish stolen yearly by China can feed 28.6 million Filipinos, or 6.8 million families, for half that time.

China’s theft and reef concreting is depleting marine resource, to push food prices up and worsen poverty in Southeast Asia. High value tuna, grouper and scud are becoming scarcer. Fisheries will collapse, warned marine ecologist Dr. John McManus of Rosenstiel School at the University of Miami who studies reefs in the region. If China is stopped, the reefs can begin to recover, he told National Geographic in 2016. Instead China today is taking advantage of world distraction by COVID-19 pandemic to tighten illegal control of the seas.

China grabbed Gaven, Hughes, Johnson South, Cuarteron, Fiery Cross, and Subi Reefs in 1988, Mischief Reef in 1995, and Scarborough Shoal in 2012. All are within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone or extended continental shelf, but well beyond China’s. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has ruled that China’s reef reclamation as island fortresses direly ruined the environment. Poaching goes on too in Recto Bank and around Palawan’s Pag-asa Island.

Philippine fish catch in the WPS has been dropping while China’s is increasing in the WPS, global figures show. China is taking the bulk, said international maritime lawyer Dr. Jay Batongbacal. China’s industrialized fishing fleet dwarfs the Philippines’. Each steel-hulled launch can haul in 12 tons per day, according to Chinese publications. Thus the often sighted 270 Chinese craft in Subi and Mischief alone cumulatively catch 3,240 tons per day. That’s 1,182,600,000 kilos a year, said the head of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea. The nearly 1.2 billion kilos poached in the two reefs matches the entire Philippine catch in the WPS.

Satellite images show Chinese poaching in Scarborough, Recto, Pag-asa, and the other reefs. The intruders are part of China’s fisheries militia based in Hainan, said Prof. Gregory Poling of the Asia Maritime Transparency Institute. “The only reason Chinese fishermen are going out there is because they’re being paid” by Beijing’s communist rulers.

Stolen catch is separate from fish that Filipinos lose from China’s reef devastation. Millions more kilos are deprived from the Philippines.

Corals are fish habitat to spawn and feed. Long studied by Australian conservationist Dr. F. Talbot, a square kilometer of reef yields 15 tons of fish per year. To which Filipino National Scientist Dr. Angel Alcala added that healthy protected Philippine reefs, like Tubbataha in the Sulu Sea, produce up to 37 tons per year. Biodiversity is richer in the equatorial Coral Triangle of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, said president-CEO Joel Palma of Worldwide Fund (WWF) for Nature-Philippines.

The seven reefs listed above were pristine. Then dredgers arrived from Guangdong in 2013 (in Mischief as far back as 1995) to build naval bases, airstrips, and weapons silos. At least 124.32 square kilometers (48 square miles) continuously were ravaged, The Hague court declared.

Going by the conservative 15-ton baseline, Filipinos thus lose 1,865 tons – 1,865,000 kilos – of fish a year from China’s non-stop reef ruin.

Corals yield other resources, said Dr. Deo Florence Onda of the UP Marine Science Institute. Reefs yield new medicines and rare metals, aside from regulating climate. (A square meter of corals also gives forth one to five kilos of sand per year, another physical benefit, Alcala studied.) Citing 2012 global ecosystems survey, Onda said China reef damage costs P33.1 billion a year. That’s P231.7 billion in seven years, said former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario (see Gotcha, 17 June 2020:

Surveys consistently show that nine in ten Filipinos detest China’s encroachment in the WPS, and eight in ten want government to stop it. Officials claim that China is doing it as defense against America, so the Philippines must stay neutral. But Philippine resources are being rendered unusable by Filipinos today and generations to come, said retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio, who helped win the Philippine case at The Hague.

A Filipino patriot passed away Saturday, June 27, sadly felled by COVID-19. Former Cebu City congressman Antonio Cuenco was a fighter for democracy against the Marcos dictatorship. More than that he was a nation-builder. From his first election as congressman in 1965 at age 29, to being in opposition in Marcos’ parliament, then back to Congress in 1987-1998 and 2001-2010 Cuenco promoted Filipino ideals and strength. He is noted for authoring the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, years before which he was active in rehabilitation. He assured funding for the National Mapping and Research Information Authority, Navy and Coast Guard, and helped craft the Philippine Baselines Act of 2009. In 2016 and 2019 he was elected Cebu city councilor to continue serving in local capacity. He died with his boots on, age 84, participating up to days before in council video sessions.

To his bereaved family our deepest condolences, and prayers for the eternal repose of his good soul.

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

My book “Exposés: Investigative Reporting for Clean Government” is available on Amazon:


AFP: Dozens of Chinese vessels spotted near Pag-asa Island

Chinese fishing vessels continue to stay near Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Western Command chief Vice Adm. Rene Medina said Wednesday there were 38 stationary Chinese boats surrounding the sandbars of Pag-asa as of Tuesday night.

There are three sandbars between Pag-asa and the Philippine-claimed but China-controlled Zamora (Subi) Reef, which the Chinese had developed into a massive military outpost.

Pag-asa is the only outpost occupied by the Philippines in the Spratly Islands with a civilian community.

The presence of these Chinese boats near Pag-asa Island has notably increased since 2018 after the Philippines began the construction of a beaching ramp and sheltered port on the island.

The Philippine government in 2019 had filed several diplomatic protests on the sustained presence of these Chinese vessels, believed to be part of a maritime militia.

In a report to Congress last year, the Department of National Defense (DND) said China is likely to continue using its maritime militia to gain an advantage in the West Philippine Sea without provoking a conventional military response.

“There is high possibility that Beijing will continue the employment of these vessels, which could be used for asymmetric warfare of sea control and sea denial, such as swarming tactic and ramming of other claimants’ vessels in the area, enabling it to make advancements in the maritime region without causing tension in the area,” DND said.

China is using its fishing vessels to discreetly conduct surveillance, search and rescue operations, and provide assistance to law enforcement agencies, it added.

Despite losing to a Philippine challenge in the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016, China insists it owns almost all of the South China Sea, including waters close to the shores of other claimants in the strategic waterway.

President Rodrigo Duterte played down the ruling in exchange for economic investments from China.


China Dumps Chemicals & Kills Fish Around Kalayaan Island To Drive Away Filipino Fishermen

The marine species and aquaculture surrounding the island are reportedly being exterminated. - Wandering Chinese vessels have been alleged as the culprit because they have reportedly been intentionally dumping chemicals in the area. - The Philippine government has yet to react on the issue. The Facebook page Kalayaan ATIN ITO revealed that China is aiming to cripple economic activities in order to push away civilians and leave the islands unoccupied. Once this happens, the Chinese apparently has plans to take control of the area and establish a military base. A recently uploaded video showed how alarming the extents of the damage really were by panning in on the dead fish that washed ashore. The ecosystem and surrounding coral reefs on Pag-asa Island are being destroyed; civilian Filipinos and their source of livelihood are suffering. The post also claims that China is “aggressively removing economic activities of the civilian community at the Kalayaan Island Group to drive away civilians and isolate the Islands. Once all civilians are gone, Chinese military activities to occupy the islands will be easier”. The Philippine government has yet to react on the issue. When it does, it will have to provide solutions, not just to the welfare and livelihood of the civilian Filipinos on the island, but overall, the ongoing dispute it is facing on the territory. While other countries have laid their claims on the islands, the Philippines and China have been the most active and vocal about the territorial dispute. Diplomatic negotiations, tense standoffs, and intimidation tactics have occurred between the two in an attempt to secure their claim or at the very least, achieve a compromise on the territory. RELATED: Could smuggled Philippine soil have helped China reclaim 3,200 acres of Spratlys land? Philippines is not the only country China has been busy with. The country is also attending to territorial disputes against Vietnam, Japan and Taiwan. Pag-asa Island, also called Thitu Island, is one of the Spratly Islands and part of Kalayaan municipality of Palawan, Philippines. It is located in the West Philippine Sea. Pag-asa is the only island in the Spratlys that is home to civilian Filipinos who make a humble living out of fishing. The Island has been occupied by the Philippines since 1970. Territorial disputes between Taiwan, China, Vietnam and of course, the Philippines, have made the area known to the international community. 


‘Chinese coast guard regularly intimidate Filipino fishermen’

What’s happening to Filipino fishermen in the South China Sea?

At about the same time as a senior Philippine military officer denied reports Filipino fishermen were being harassed by Chinese security forces in the vicinity of Scarborough or Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, an even more senior US admiral said the fishermen were being regularly harassed and intimidated. 

Adm. Philip Davidson, head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, told a House armed services committee on Wednesday that Chinese coast guard vessels now under the command of the Central Military Commission “regularly harass and intimidate fishing vessels from our treaty ally, the Philippines, operating near Scarborough Reef, as well as the fishing fleets of other regional nations.”

In a written statement to the committee meeting here to discuss the Indo-Pacific region, the US Navy commander said contrary to international law, Beijing has continued militarizing disputed territory in the South China Sea by employing advanced military systems that further enhance the People’s Liberation Army power projection capabilities, including missiles and electronic jammers.

On multiple occasions, Beijing has landed military transport aircraft on the Spratly Islands and long-range bombers on the Paracel Islands, he said.

Additionally, Chinese Coast Guard vessels regularly harass and intimidate fishing vessels from the Philippines.

Earlier Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, commander of AFP’s Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), said there have been no reports of Filipino fishermen being harassed by the Chinese in the vicinity of Panatag.

The Nolcom commander added that Navy and Coast Guard ships regularly patrol the country’s northern maritime borders to ensure freedom of navigation in the area.

Randall Schriver, assistant secretary for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Office at the US Defense Department, told the House committee Beijing’s intentions in the South China Sea were not benign.

“China continues to militarize disputed features in the South China Sea and has also delivered coastal defense cruise missiles (CDCM) and long-range surface-to-air missile to Spratly Islands outposts, a clear sign that its intentions are not benign,” he said.

In Manila, the Duterte administration has distanced itself from a complaint filed with the International Criminal Court (ICC) by former foreign affairs chief Albert del Rosario and former ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales against Chinese President Xi Jinping over China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea.

President Duterte mentioned the complaint during his meeting with Communist Party of China international department minister Song Tao last Wednesday in Davao City, but a Palace statement stressed his administration “had no participation in such activity.”

“We cannot stop people from just filing cases,” Duterte was quoted in the statement as saying.

Duterte and Song also discussed issues that he thought would further strengthen the relationship between Manila and Beijing, according to the Palace statement.

The Philippine leader thanked the Chinese government for the “vibrant trade relationship” between the two countries and cited China’s “relentless support” for his administration’s “Build Build Build” infrastructure program.

Song assured Duterte that China is ready to assist the Philippines in its effort to improve the lives of its citizens.

“If there (is) a need of assistance in improving the people’s lives, China is willing to help,” the Palace statement quoted Song as saying.

Song said the Chinese government is also looking forward to welcoming Duterte to China next month. The President is expected to attend the second Belt and Road forum in China in April.

Proper mechanism

Meanwhile, Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana said any complaint regarding alleged Chinese harassment of Filipino fishermen may be raised by Duterte through the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism (BCM), which meets every six months.

The President is expected to bring the matter up with Xi on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.

“Regarding this issue, we have a mechanism for this. If there is actual harassment that is confirmed by the Philippine authorities, through the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea, it is raised through diplomatic channels,” Sta. Romana said in an interview on ANC on Wednesday.

“We raise it at the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism. And this is the mechanism we use to tell the Chinese, face to face, about a particular issue,” he added. – With Alexis Romero, Pia Lee-Brago


Duterte says he allows Chinese vessels to fish in Philippine waters to prevent war

Duterte says he allows Chinese vessels to fish in Philippine waters to prevent war

  • In his State of the Nation address, the president says Manila ‘owns the West Philippine Sea but China controls it’, pointing to the presence of guided missiles on Chinese-made artificial islands

  • The two-hour speech also saw him ask Congress to reimpose the death penalty for drug-related crimes and set up a new ministry for the welfare of overseas workers

Duterte on Monday insisted the West Philippine Sea belonged to his country, but defended his agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to allow Chinese fishermen to operate in the area, saying it was not a constitutional violation.

In Monday’s State of the Nation address, which he delivered more than an hour late, Duterte said this agreement would ensure there would be no war in the disputed South China Sea , where Manila and Beijing have overlapping claims.

If you want marines to drive away the Chinese fishermen, not one of them will come home alive President Rodrigo Duterte

“We own the West Philippine Sea but China controls it. That is the reality,” Duterte said, hinting that China would have no qualms using arms. “There are already guided missiles [on China-made artificial] islands, [which] can reach Manila in seven minutes.

“If you want marines to drive away the Chinese fishermen, not one of them will come home alive.”

Duterte devoted nine minutes to the West Philippine Sea issue, revealing he had asked Xi to “please allow” Filipino fishermen to work in the Philippines ’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). In return, he said he allowed Chinese fishermen to operate in the area, where a Chinese fishing vessel last month rammed and sank a Philippine fishing boat. “Xi says ‘I will fish’, who can prevent him? I said, ‘We will fish because we claim it’. I said, ‘Please allow’, because before that [China was] driving away our fishermen.”

The West Philippine Sea refers to the part of the South China Sea that lies off the Philippines’ west coast. Manila named the area in 2012 in a bid to delineate its sovereign territory.

Duterte also disclosed that during their first bilateral talk in October 2016, he told Xi the Philippines would undertake oil exploration activities in the EEZ.

“President Xi replied, ‘Well, you know there is a conflict there … you know a squabble there could lead to something else,” the Philippine leader said. “So we just became friends.”

As it stands, Duterte said, he “cannot even bring the coastguard to drive [China] away”.

“That is the problem. They are the ones in possession.”


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