Report Exposes Chinese Fishing Fleet’s Systemic Illegalities and Human Rights Abuses in Southwest Indian Ocean

A new report published by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) sheds light on the alarming extent of illegal fishing and human rights abuses perpetrated by the Chinese fishing fleet in countries bordering the Southwest Indian Ocean (SWIO). The findings challenge China’s claims of supporting sustainable development and thriving blue economies in the region.

China’s distant-water fishing fleet, known as the world’s largest and most controversial, has faced accusations of environmental and human rights violations in various regions, including Latin America and West Africa. The EJF’s investigation now reveals the extent of its detrimental impact on East Africa’s seas.

According to the report, based on interviews with 44 fishers, a staggering 80% reported instances of shark finning, while 100% reported abusive working and living conditions. Additionally, 96% reported excessive overtime, and 55% reported experiencing physical violence. These findings underscore the severe exploitation and mistreatment faced by those working in the Chinese fishing industry.

Furthermore, the investigation extended to Mozambique, where 16 fishers who worked on Chinese trawlers reported similar widespread illegalities. Shockingly, 81% of these fishers reported instances of physical abuse, while half reported the deliberate capture and/or injury of vulnerable marine megafauna. The presence of 138 Chinese vessels fishing in Mozambican waters, as identified by the EJF, highlights the scale of the problem in the region.

The report’s revelations raise serious concerns about the detrimental impact of China’s fishing activities on marine ecosystems and local communities in the Southwest Indian Ocean. The widespread disregard for environmental regulations and human rights underscores the urgent need for stronger enforcement measures and international cooperation to address illegal fishing practices.

Observers say efforts to combat these challenges must prioritize the protection of marine biodiversity, the promotion of sustainable fishing practices, and the safeguarding of the rights and well-being of those working in the fishing industry. According to them, by holding accountable those responsible for illegal activities and advocating for responsible fishing practices, stakeholders are able to work towards ensuring the long-term health and sustainability of the Southwest Indian Ocean’s marine resources.

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