Posts Tagged ‘fishermen’

South China Sea: One Year After The Philippines Win At The Permanent Court of Arbitration — Brilliant Statecraft or Treason?

July 12, 2017

By Ellen Tordesillas

Posted at Jul 12 2017 02:46 AM

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One of the good things that President Duterte has done was to rekindle relations with China which reached its lowest ebb during the administration of Benigno Aquino III.

Never mind that during the election campaign, he rode on the anti-China sentiments of most Filipinos fueled by the pro-American leanings of Aquino and his Foreign Secretary, Albert del Rosario.

Remember, a standard in Duterte’s campaign speech was his boast that he will ride on a jet ski to one of the islands in the disputed Spratlys and plant the Philippine flag. He would kiss the flag to dramatize his promise. Once in Malacanang, he was asked when he was going to jetski to Spratlys and he replied it was a joke. He said he didn’t even know how to swim.

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In the guise of independent foreign policy, Duterte didn’t just cozy up to China. He attacked the United States when then President Barack Obama reminded him to respect human rights amid reports of rampant killings in connection with his anti-illegal drugs campaign.

His foreign policy moves can be likened to a pendulum that swung from extreme right to extreme left. Today marks first year anniversary of the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands on the case filed by the Philippines against China on the latter’s activities in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

China did not participate in the Arbitral Court proceedings.

It was a major victory for the Philippines. The Arbitral Court declared invalid China’s nine-dashed line map which covers some 85 percent of the whole South China which infringes on the economic exclusive zones of other countries namely the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

The Arbitral Court also ruled that China’s  artificial islands – rocks that were turned into garrisons through reclamation – in the disputed South China Sea do not generate entitlements under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea such as economic exclusive zone (220 nautical miles from the shore) and extended continental shelf (350 nautical miles).

As to Scarborough or Panatag Shoal, which is within the Philippine EEZ, the Arbitral Court said it’s a traditional fishing ground of Philippine, Chinese, Vietnamese and fishermen of other nationalities and should be maintained as such.

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Filipino fishermen had been denied access to the area since April 2012 after a two-month stand off between Chinese and Philippine Coastguards following arrest by a Philippine warship of Chinese fishermen in Scarborough shoal. Two Chinese ships remained even after the Aquino government withdrew its ships.

Duterte takes pride that because of his friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Filipino fishermen are now allowed to fish in the area, which is being guarded by two Chinese ships.

It’s like a battered wife thankful that the husband has stopped beating her.

Duterte’s critics have scored his deference to China even  echoing  the position of China that historically South China Sea is theirs  as the name states.

In an ambush interview last April. Duterte said, “They really claim it as their own, noon pa iyan. Hindi lang talaga pumutok nang mainit. Ang nagpainit diyan iyong Amerikano. Noon pa iyan, kaya (It goes way back. The issue just did not erupt then. What triggered the conflict were the Americans. But it goes all the way back. That’s why it’s called) China Sea… sabi nga nila (they say) China Sea, historical na iyan. So hindi lang iyan pumuputok (It’s historical. The issue just had not erupted then) but this issue was the issue before so many generations ago.”

VERA Files fact-check about the name of South China Sea showed  that  South China Sea used to be called the Champa Sea, after the Cham people who established a great maritime kingdom in central Vietnam from the late 2nd to the 17th century.

That is contained in the book,  ‘The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea” by  Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

Carpio said it was the  Portuguese navigators who coined the name South China Sea.

“The ancient Malays also called this sea Laut Chidol or the South Sea, as recorded by Pigafetta in his account of Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world from 1519 to 1522. In Malay, which is likewise derived from the Austronesian language, laut means sea and kidol means south,” he further said.

“The ancient Chinese never called this sea the South China Sea. Their name for the sea was “Nan Hai” or the South Sea, he adds.

Reading Duterte’s blurting the Chinese line on the South China name, Ruben Carranza, former commissioner of the Presidential Commission on Good Government and now director of the Reparative Justice Program at the International Center for Transitional Justice, said “In football, that would be an ‘own goal.’

That’s when a player delivers the ball to the opponent’s goal.



 (Contains links to information about Vietnam’s renewed efforts to extract oil and gas from the sea bed)

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Dominance of the South China Sea, the Malacca Strait and the Indian Ocean would solidify China’s One Belt One Road project
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The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.
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China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning at Hong Kong

Some Countries Defy China’s Ban on South China Sea Fishing

June 14, 2017


China is enforcing new limits on fishing in the South China Sea, despite protests from countries with fishing operations in the disputed waterway.

The Chinese government said it began a new fishing moratorium last month to protect fishing stocks. The moratorium lasts for three months, 30 days longer than in previous years. It also covers more fishing operations than previous moratoriums.

Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines all claim control over waters within the area covered by the moratorium. Some fishing boat operators in those countries are defying the moratorium.

The Vietnamese government criticized the moratorium, questioning its legality.

The Philippines government has been working with China to resolve trade disputes and has not commented on the new fishing moratorium.

Taiwan’s government gives awards to fishing boat operators who set their own fishing limits. The government said it would assist fishing operators affected by the new Chinese fishing rules.

Taiwanese boats are known to follow blue-fish tuna in the South China Sea.

Chiu Chui-cheng is an official with the Taiwan government’s Mainland Affairs Council. He said Taiwan officials are ready to order rescue missions “to protect the safety of fishing crews and their vessels.”

“So we ask that our Taiwanese friends in the fishing industry relax,” he said.

Taiwanese fishing boats flying national flags prepare to leave for Taiping Island in 2016. Taiwan and China have disputing claims in the South China Sea.

Taiwanese fishing boats flying national flags prepare to leave for Taiping Island in 2016. Taiwan and China have disputing claims in the South China Sea.

China has enforced previous South China Sea fishing moratoriums by arresting fishing boat operators. But analysts said many fishing operators know the best areas to fish to avoid drawing attention of Chinese officials.

Murray Hiebert is an area expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said China is likely to use different enforcement methods against violators of its fishing moratorium.

They include taking control of fishing boats, arresting boat operators or sinking boats whose operators do not follow orders from Chinese authorities

Hiebert said, “Some Vietnamese fishing boats will continue going out to fish and risk harassment or arrests. Others are likely to hang back to avoid trouble.”

Earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis praised China for working to limit North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. But he said the United States would not accept a Chinese military buildup on islands in the South China Sea.

Mattis made the comments while attending a recent meeting in Singapore.

Chinese Foreign Minister official Hua Chunying responded to Mattis by saying China will continue to “safeguard” its claims to the South China Sea.

But Hua said China remains ready to “peacefully” resolve disputes to uphold the “peace and stability of the South China Sea.”

Ralph Jennings reported on this story for VOA News. Bruce Alpert adapted the story for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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FILE photo provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac —  A Chinese Coast Guard boat approaches Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines, by international law. China says it is happy to control fishing in the South China Sea. Credit: Renato Etac

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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law.

Time To Take Action To Defend The Philippines

June 13, 2017
/ 12:22 AM June 13, 2017

I meant to write on Rizal and President Duterte, but taking part in the Defend Democracy Summit at the UP School of Economics on Monday brought me face to face with the human toll of the Duterte administration’s irresolution in defending the West Philippine Sea. We must make time to understand the Duterte era from a historical perspective; on Thursday, the Inquirer and the De La Salle University seek to do just that, with a historians’ forum on Philippine independence and the rise of China. But today—today I want to talk about Norma and Ping and the fishermen in Zambales they represent.

Let me belabor the obvious: The Defend Democracy Summit was called out of the sense that democracy in the Philippines today needs to be defended. The organizers defined four areas that needed defending: national sovereignty, human rights, democratic institutions, truth.

Assigned to the first workshop, I had the chance to listen to Prof. Jay Batongbacal, one of the world’s leading experts on the South China Sea disputes. (I added a few words on the Chinese view, from confusion in the 1930s about the location of the Spratlys to allegations in the English-language Chinese press of Philippine aggression in 2016.) In the discussion that followed, the diversity of the perspectives represented was striking: women, businessmen, students, environmentalists, political activists, fisherfolk. I was especially impressed by the intensity of the intervention of the likes of Norma and Ping, who represented fishermen from Zambales whose lives and livelihood are increasingly at risk.


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Not for lack of trying: The fishermen are organized, conduct roundtables in their communities, connect to local and national reporters. But since the start of the Duterte administration, they have found themselves at the mercy of the Chinese—and the authorities do not seem to be of any help. One of the representatives spoke of a recent incident where Chinese fishermen were arrested while poaching in internal waters, and a Chinese Embassy official appeared to tell police officers: “Philippine law does not apply to them (the poachers).” (I will try to get to the bottom of this incident.) He also vigorously rejected media reports that Filipino fishermen can now fish inside Scarborough Shoal.

A group of Zambales fishermen has been conducting meetings and workshops among themselves. In their last workshop, they came up with a list of five demands, in Filipino, that illustrates the immediate effect of the government’s failure to protect their way of life.

The five demands they addressed to the Duterte administration include:

Remove China’s illegal structures and stop certain practices that only favor China.

Allow fishermen to fish and to seek cover in Scarborough Shoal in times of typhoons and calamities.

Provide livelihood for fishermen’s families affected (by Chinese control of Scarborough Shoal since 2012).

Avoid classifying Scarborough as a marine sanctuary because in the end this will only become a fishing area for China.

Stop the illegal quarrying in Zambales used for the reclamation (of Chinese-occupied reefs) and the building of Chinese military structures, in the West Philippine Sea.

Another representative warned: “In five years, maybe in two years, Zambales will be out”—meaning out of fish stock, because of aggressive Chinese fishing.

Yesterday, June 12, was the 90th birthday of an extraordinary teacher who is, amazingly, still teaching. Onofre Pagsanghan, better known to generations of students at the Ateneo de Manila High School, and to thousands of students and parents who have heard his lectures in different schools across the country, as Mr. Pagsi, was—is—a spellbinding speaker. His gift is equal parts heart and craft; a lifetime of integrity and excellence becomes visible through his lectures, even his casual remarks.

What a privilege it was to study under him.

On Twitter: @jnery_newsstand

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FILE photo provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac —  A Chinese Coast Guard boat approaches Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines, by international law. China says it is happy to control fishing in the South China Sea. Credit: Renato Etac

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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law.

Winning against China

June 13, 2017

This is the final column based on Justice Antonio Carpio’s e-book The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea. I summarize here Justice Carpio’s interpretation of the decision of the arbitral tribunal in the Permanent Court of Arbitration that upheld the Philippine positions on most issues. I also share Justice Carpio’s suggestions on how the Arbitral Award can be enforced.

On the Scarborough Shoal, the Tribunal ruled that the Shoal is a high-tide elevation entitled to a 12-nautical mile territorial sea but not to a 200-NM exclusive economic zone since obviously it is not capable of human habitation. The territorial sea of Scarborough Shoal, which includes the lagoon, is however a traditional fishing ground of Filipino, Chinese, and Vietnamese fishermen. In any case, China cannot prevent Filipino fishermen from fishing in the territorial sea of Scarborough Shoal.

China claims the Scarborough Shoal because the shoal was allegedly the observation point in the South China Sea where Guo Shoujing erected in 1279 CE an astronomical observatory. This claim is belied by the fact that China had already identified Xisha (the Paracels) as the observation point when China presented its argument against Vietnam in 1980. As clearly pointed out by Carpio: “The biggest rock on Scarborough Shoal is just 1.2 meters above water at high tide, and not more than six to 10 people can stand on it.  It is physically impossible to erect, or operate, the massive astronomical observatories of Guo Shoujing on the tiny rocks of Scarborough.”

As regard the environment, the arbitral tribunal ruled that China violated its obligation under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to “protect and preserve the marine environment” when China: (a) Dredged and built islands on seven reefs;  (b)Failed to prevent its fishermen from harvesting endangered species like sea turtles, corals, and giant clams in the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal.

Other issues raised on which the arbitral tribunal has ruled are:

China violated the exclusive right of the Philippines to its EEZ when China: (a) Interfered with fishing activities of Filipino fishermen within Philippine EEZ, including imposing a fishing moratorium within Philippine EEZ; (b) Interfered with petroleum activities of Philippine-commissioned vessels within Philippine EEZ; (c) Failed to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing within Philippine EEZ; and (d) Constructed an artificial island and structures on an LTE (Mischief Reef) within Philippine EEZ.

China also violated its obligation not to aggravate the dispute during the arbitration when China: (a) Dredged the reefs, reclaimed and built the islands while the proceedings were ongoing, and; Destroyed the evidence of the natural condition of the geologic features at issue when China dredged and reclaimed them while the proceedings were ongoing.

Finally,  China violated its obligation to observe maritime safety when Chinese coast guard vessels crossed the path of Philippine vessels at high speed.

In conclusion, Justice Carpio suggests ways forward in the enforcement of the arbitral award, namely: (a) Enforcement of the award by the world’s naval powers with respect to freedom of navigation and overflight for military vessels and aircraft; and, (b)  Enforcement of the award by the Philippines with respect to its exclusive right to exploit the resources of its EEZ in the South China Sea.

On the first enforcement method, Justice Carpio observed that naval powers such as the United States, France and Great Britain can enforce the award by sailing and flying, and conducting military activities, in the high seas and EEZs of the South China Sea.

On the second method of enforcement, the Philippines can do several things, such as suing in a jurisdiction that ratified UNCLOS, move before the International Seabed Authority for the suspension of China’s exploration permits in the area, move before the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) for the suspension of China’s application for an ECS in the East China Sea, can negotiate its maritime boundaries with Malaysia (EEZ and ECS) and Vietnam (ECS), applying the Arbitral Tribunal’s ruling that no geologic feature in the Spratlys generates an EEZ and that the nine-dashed line has no legal effect on maritime entitlements, can delineate its ECS from Luzon and file its claim with the CLCS, there being no legal impediment from the nine-dashed line, and the Philippine navy and coast guard vessels and aircraft can continue to patrol  Philippine EEZ in the West Philippine Sea.

As a final word, Justice Carpio emphasized that the leaders of our nation must exercise utmost deliberation, consistency, and perseverance in seeking ways to enforce what the arbitral tribunal has finally awarded to the Philippines as its own EEZ in the West Philippine Sea.  Silence or inaction is no way to go as this can be interpreted as a state’s acceptance of a factual or legal situation.

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Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio

It is fitting to end this series this week, when we celebrate Independence Day of the Philippines. There can be no real independence without securing our sovereignty.  President Duterte’s approach to foreign policy, while laudable for its independence, has been reckless on its defense of national territory. Thankfully, we have Justice Antonio Carpio to remind our leaders of what needs to be done, I reiterate what I said at the beginning of this series, Justice Tony is a hero, a defender of the country’s territory and of our Constitution. Let’s be thankful for that.

Facebook: Dean Tony La Vina Twitter: tonylavs


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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law.

How China’s demand for a $30K fish bladder drives poaching, trafficking and wildlife extinction

May 18, 2017


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A boat full of totoaba and its crew took the illegal catch to shore while being photographed with a Sea Shepherd drone. (photo courtesy of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

An hourlong flight east of Hong Kong in the Chinese port city of Shantou, traders cater to affluent businessmen quietly looking to drop up to $30,000 dollars on a single fish bladder.

While these transactions are punishable by large fines and even time behind bars, a covert investigation by a nonprofit advocacy group has found that weak, perhaps corrupt, law enforcement allows fishermen, import-export companies and perhaps drug cartels to profit in an international supply chain that stretches from Asia back to Southern California and Mexico.

Chinese culture has believed for centuries that the organ — known locally as gold coin fish maw — has lifesaving properties. While science has yet to prove the health benefits, the dried bladder is often kept for emergencies — for use as part of a medicinal soup. It’s also gifted and displayed in homes as a status symbol.

“In Shantou, gold coin fish maw is usually treated as the priceless treasure of a shop, so they are not labeled a price and not on sale (openly),” a local trader in March told an undercover investigator with the Los Angeles-based Elephant Action League, a recently established organization that gathers intelligence on wildlife crimes.

This week, the nonprofit issued its report exposing the illegal fish-bladder trade in China and its consequences thousands of miles away. The league said it intends to expand its watchdog work on this issue in the coming months.

By the mid-20th century, Chinese demand for certain fish bladders had eviscerated stocks of the giant yellow croaker, which once thrived off China’s coast. If a person is lucky enough to catch one of these rare fish today, it can fetch as much as half a million dollars on the black market.

Enthusiasm for fish bladders went unnoticed for decades by many in the West. However, in recent years that has changed as desire for the illicit product has led to the near extinction of the vaquita porpoise, which lives in Baja California and is the most endangered marine mammal on the planet.

The totoaba, a 120-pound fish found in the Upper Gulf of Mexico, has a bladder that resembles that of the croaker’s — making it a prime target of poaching. It’s suspected that drug cartels pay local fishermen in the region to catch the fish and deliver the prized organ.

While the six-foot-long totoabas are then dumped back into the sea, their dried bladders are shipped to Asia. At retail pricing, each bladder can fetch from $6,700 to more than $30,000 depending on its weight and other characteristics.

A gold coin fish maw at a store in the Chinese port city of Shantou,

In the process, the nylon gillnets used to catch totoabas in the murky waters off of the fishing village of San Felipe in Baja California also ensnare and suffocate a number of other wildlife species, including whales, sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, rays — and those imperiled vaquitas.

Scientists with international conservation groups estimate that fewer than 30 vaquitas remain today, down from about 567 two decades ago. The totoaba is also considered by international treaty to be endangered. It’s unknown exactly how many are left.

The Elephant Action League’s undercover team, which includes retired law-enforcement officers from around the globe, visited more than two dozen shops in Shantou, China and the surrounding region in March. The area is believed to be a main trading hub for the bladders.

“They pretend to be buyers or traders,” said Andrea Crosta, executive director and co-founder of the league, which employs a handful of full-time staff members and a network of about a couple dozen contractors around the world. “They wear undercover cameras. We come back with audio and video that back up our words,” he said.

Many shop owners at first hesitated to speak with the league’s investigators, but eventually opened up and displayed their priciest fish maws. After the Chinese government began paying more attention to the illicit trade in recent years, many merchants responded by selling only to trusted customers and behind closed doors.

However, this level of caution wasn’t universal.

“Chinese laws on illegal wildlife trafficking are very harsh, but the problem is the implementation,” Crosta said. “It’s not enough to just have the laws. They have to be enforced.”

China’s government launched a campaign last fall to educate merchants on Chinese and Mexican laws banning totoaba fishing and bladder sales. Still, none of shop owners interviewed by the league could recall any seizures by law enforcement in their region.

On Nan’ao Island, a historical trading hub for fish maws just off the coast of Shantou, an investigator probed a dealer for information.

“If it’s illegal, why do you put them on display?” the investigator asked.

“Because (when) the government comes to check, they call and inform us earlier, and we will hide them when they come,” the merchant explained.

Several shop owners advised the investigators to purchase only the most expensive gold coin fish maw to use as an important business gift or to bribe a government official for an especially lucrative contract.

Investigators found a steady flow of totoaba bladders coming from Mexico into China, and many traders said that’s because they’re betting on a collapse of the species. The merchants frequently said people buy the gold coin fish maws as investments, speculating that demand will eventually outpace supply and dramatically drive up market values.

A primary smuggling route for totoaba bladders is believed to be from Mexico into the U.S. and then to Hong Kong and China, according to the new report. Thailand, which critics said also suffers from lax enforcement, is thought to be another key stopover for some shipments.

Shop owners in Shantou said most of the fish bladders were coming from a port on the U.S.-Mexico border, transported in shipping containers alongside legal products such as codfish bladders.

Mexican and U.S. officials have called the totoaba bladder “aquatic cocaine.” In fact, it’s often more expensive, with about two pounds of dried bladder routinely selling for as much as three and a half pounds of the powder drug.

Wildlife trafficking in general is big business, with an estimated annual value of $2 billion in the U.S. and up to $23 billion globally, according to a 2015 report from the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife in Washington, D.C. It is routinely ranked among the top illicit trades worldwide.

Moving illegal animal and plant products has drawn the attention of organized crime. In Baja California, drug cartels have been blamed for paying local fishermen to poach the totoaba bladders and then smuggling the contraband.

The value of totoaba bladders in Mexico is approximately $1,500 apiece, according to some law-enforcement agencies. The pricing surges to about $5,000 per bladder after the organ is smuggled into the U.S.

It’s thought that trafficking of totoaba bladders attracts a lot of opportunists because it’s lucrative and relatively low-risk. Even people on the front lines moving the product rarely face consequences in China, Mexico or the U.S., judging by the scant number of prosecutions in those countries.

“The number of cases have (recently) decreased,” said Michelle Zetwo of San Diego, a special agent with the law-enforcement division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “That either tells me that the demand is down in China or they’re beating us coming across the border somehow. Or they’re shipping it directly from Mexico to China.”

The most high-profile totoaba case involved the prosecution of a man, Song Shen Zhen, caught crossing the border from Calexico into the U.S. with several of the bladders. After he was let go, Border Patrol agents trailed him to a house where they discovered more than 200 other dried bladders, estimated to have a total street value in China of more than $3.6 million.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of California announced in 2014 that Shen Zhen was sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay the Mexican government $120,500 in restitution. Under the law, he could have received up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In another case, Los Angeles-based furniture dealer Kam Wing Chan received probation and was ordered to pay $55,000 in restitution for, among other things, possession of several dozen swim bladders.

Fishermen in Baja California who catch totoaba largely have escaped serious fines and incarceration.

“Most of the illegal fishermen are not motivated by a little fine. It’s so lucrative,” said Oona Layolle, who heads an advocacy operation in the Upper Gulf of Mexico for the U.S.-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. She oversees two boats that patrol the area, pull up banned gillnets and call in potential poaches to the Mexican navy.

“Every night we see 20 (illegal) fishermen around our ship on the radar, and I know they only arrested seven people in the last two years,” she added.

Mexico’s law-enforcement leaders are promising to step up efforts again the unsanctioned fishing and smuggling. Last month, its Congress voted to make such poaching a felony, and a boat with three or more people found catching totoaba can face charges of organized crime.

So far, these measures haven’t seemed to slow down fishermen in the upper Gulf, who sell totoaba bladders to middlemen in and around the town of San Felipe, said Sean Bogle, an investigative filmmaker with the nonprofit Wild Lens.

“A fisherman will go out and fish for totoaba, and they’re usually removing the bladder in the boat,” he said. “When they hit shore, there is an individual waiting for them, someone involved in an organized syndicate of sorts.”

Bogle recently directed the documentary “Souls of the Vermilion Sea,” which chronicles the impact of totoaba poaching on the dwindling vaquita population. In the process, he interviewed anglers and government officials close to the supply chain.

“From what I understand, going through the U.S. is the most common (smuggling) route,” Bogle said. “There’s definitely reports of it going out of San Diego, particularly on container ships.”

Chinese moving to dominate the South China Sea — An emerging environmental disaster has gone largely unnoticed

March 26, 2017

A sea in peril

While rival claimants jockey for strategic position in the South China Sea, an emerging environmental disaster has gone largely unnoticed

MARCH 25, 2017

China will soon host a dialogue with Southeast Asian nations aimed at managing tensions in the South China Sea. But it’s not clear whether the talks will help to save a marine environment that in parts is facing collapse.

While diplomats discuss the implementation of a code of conduct for rival claimants in the vast waterway, scientists say that the region’s marine environment also deserves attention, partly because overfishing on all sides is depleting fish stocks.

Chinese fishermen in search of valuable giant clams have destroyed vital coral reefs on a vast scale, although that practice now appears to be slowing.

Rachael Bale of National Geographic, who has written extensively on the South China Sea, aptly summed up the situation early this year, saying that “While politicians argue over which country controls the region, the fishery … is on the brink of collapse.”

Fishermen unload baskets of fish as they dock their boats at a port under the alert of Typhoon Kalmaegi, in Sanya, Hainan province September 14, 2014. China's marine forecast station issued a yellow alert as typhoon Kalmaegi is expected to enter the South China Sea on Monday morning, Xinhua News Agency reported. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT AGRICULTURE) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA - RTR464V0

Overfished: Fishermen unload their catch in Hainan province, China. Photo: Reuters

According to The Nature Conservancy, overfishing is a common problem around the world. Maria Damanaki, global managing director for oceans at the Conservancy, explains that “when too few individual fish of breeding age remain, they simply don’t produce well …”

It is what she describes as “a lose-lose situation for both fishermen and conservationists.” The stakes are particularly high in the case of the South China Sea.

High stakes

Occupying more than 3.5 million square kilometers, the South China Sea is one of the world’s five leading fishing zones, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia.

The fishery employs more than 3 million people, contributes heavily to the global fish trade and provides a major source of vital protein to millions of people living in the nations that depend on it.

In addition, experts believe that huge reserves of oil and gas lie unexploited beneath the disputed waters.

Fishing boats are seen anchored in a bay as Typhoon Chan-Hom approaches southern China, in Wenling, Zhejiang province, July 8, 2015. Chinese authorities have suspended train services, closed schools and bought trawlers back to port before two typhoons in the south and east of the country make landfall later this week, state media said. Picture taken July 8, 2015. REUTERS/William Hong CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA - RTX1JNFJ

Seafaring: Chinese fishing boats anchored in the bay. Photo: Reuters/William Hong

US Air Force Captain Adam Greer, who has done research partly funded by the National Defense University, says that the stakes in the South China Sea can be summed up by a “3 P’s rule”—politics, petroleum, and protein.

In an article published in The Diplomat, Greer argues that the protein derived from fish may be the most important factor driving competition in the South China Sea.

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The best news for the environment, one leading American scientist says, was a Chinese decision early this year to enforce regulations calling for a halt to the harvesting and processing by Chinese fishermen of giant clams in the South China Sea.

John McManus, a professor of marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami, said that the decision, announced by China’s southern Hainan province, could mark a major step toward helping to preserve and restore a vital part of the marine environment.

The giant clams are embedded in coral reefs that protect small fish from predators. The coral reefs also play a role in replenishing fish stocks.

This picture taken on July 19, 2013 shows giant clams on display in Tanmen, in China's southern Hainan Province. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO / AFP PHOTO / STR

In demand: Giant clams for sale in China’s southern Hainan Province. Photo: AFP

According to McManus, Chinese poachers using boat propellers to dig up reefs and uncover the clams have caused widespread damage to many of the reefs. Chinese dredging aimed at gathering sand and gravel to build artificial islands has caused further serious damage.

The highly valued shells of the clams have been carved much like elephant ivory into intricate ornaments for sale to Chinese tourists visiting Hainan Island. Some Chinese regard the meat from the clams as a rare delicacy and an aphrodisiac.

Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies believes that the biggest factor in reducing the giant clam shell trade may be Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.

“As the crackdown on corruption has spread, people are understandably hesitant to accept jewelry or statues made from poached giant clams,” Poling said.

Products made from giant clam shells are displayed inside a store in the seaside town of Tanmen in China's Hainan province May 10, 2016. Picture taken May 10, 2016. REUTERS/Farah Master - RTX2IKU7

Shiny wears: Products made from giant clam shells at Tanmen town in China’s Hainan province. Photo: Reuters/Farah Master

Zhang Hongzhou, a research fellow at the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, says that it appears the crackdown on the giant clam trade has been “very decisive, at least as of now.”

The local government on Hainan Island, he says, also intends to promote “fishing tourism” as an alternative source of income for the local fishermen.

But Zhang says that he sees some evidence that the price for giant clams is rising, which could lead to an underground trade that spurs illegal harvesting.


Coral rubble remains after Chinese “chopper” boats killed branching corals, which were subsequently further broken up by  blast fishing.  John McManus/Rosenstiel School, University of Miami

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Dr. John McManus, professor of Marine Biology and Fisheries at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

The various nations involved in the South China Sea, including China, have laws aimed at preserving the marine environment. But the problem so far has been a lack of implementation.

Talks bring hope

China’s recent negotiations with Vietnam have offered another source of hope. During a recent visit to Beijing, Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam’s Communist Party General Secretary, signed 15 agreements dealing, among other things, with economic cooperation, defense relations and tourism.

But another development points to potential conflict.

Satellite photos taken by the firm Planet Labs on March 6 show the clearing of land by China for possible new construction in the disputed Paracel Islands. Taiwan and Vietnam claim the Paracels as their territory.

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Photo taken May 2016. U.S. Navy/Handout

Chinese dredging vessels in the South China Sea in 2016. Photo: US Navy/handout

Last month China’s agriculture ministry announced a fishing ban, including over a number of areas claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam, among others, in the South China Sea, that would last from May 1 to August 16. The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry strongly objected to the ban, which it described as “unilateral.”

Hua Chunying, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

At the same time, on the diplomatic front, China claims to be drafting a new code of conduct with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), although some experts doubt that diplomats can complete it as promised by the end of this year.

A non-binding code of conduct resolution signed by China and ASEAN in 2002 included brief mention of cooperative “marine environmental protection,” contingent on a comprehensive and durable settlement of the disputes.

South China Sea disputed islands

Marine biology expert McManus says that effectively managing the marine environment will require peaceful relations among the nations whose fishermen, and the Coast Guards backing them, have clashed frequently in recent years.

McManus proposes that a “marine peace park” be established in the Spratly Islands and that a freeze on territorial claims be imposed as part of an agreement. But satellite images showing the clearing of land on North Island in the Paracels group makes a freeze seem unlikely any time soon.

A Vietnamese Coast Guard officer took a picture of a China Coast Guard ship moving toward his vessel, which is near the site of a Chinese drilling oil rig being installed in disputed water.

A Vietnamese Coast Guard officer took a picture of a China Coast Guard ship moving toward his vessel, which is near the site of a Chinese drilling oil rig being installed in disputed water. AFP/getty images

Carl Thayer, a Vietnam expert at the Australian Defense Force Academy, describes the Paracels as “vital to any future Chinese attempt to dominate the South China Sea.” But as long as the territorial disputes drag on, the maritime area’s environment will likely continue to pay a high cost.

Dan Southerland is the former executive editor of Radio Free Asia



 — From March 25, 2017 with links to other related articles

National Geographic:


A China Coast Guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a stand off as the Philippine boat attempts to reach the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea a reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jay Directo )


A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (

A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

Vietnamese fishing boat Captain Tran Van Quang

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.


Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea

Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city, the Philippines, to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea


 (This    article has links to several  others related to environmental issues in the South China Sea).

A green sea turtle is seen off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

A green sea turtle.(Reuters)

 (Includes Obama creates largest ocean reserve, takes heat for new federal decrees)

 (Has links to many related conservation and environmental articles)

 (Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports)

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Filipino activists and Vietnamese nationals display placards and chant anti-China slogans as they march outside the Chinese Consulate in Manila’s Makati financial district on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on Friday, May 16, 2014, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. — PHOTO: REUTERS


 (August 25, 2016)

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China’s Tian Jing Hao – Cutter suction dredger — Used to destroy South China Sea coral reefs to provide dredge material for new man made- islands — an environmental disaster

 (Contains links to several related articles)

August 17, 2015
ANOTHER set of a dredge floater assembly with Chinese markings found in the Zambales sea is pulled to the shore of the capital town of Iba on Sunday. The first set of dredge floaters was found by local fishermen off Cabangan, Zambales province, in July. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

ANOTHER set of a dredge floater assembly with Chinese markings found in the Zambales sea is pulled to the shore of the capital town of Iba on Sunday. The first set of dredge floaters was found by local fishermen off Cabangan, Zambales province, in July. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON



An elderly Vietnamese protester holds a placard during an anti-China protest in front of the Chinese consulate in the financial district of Manila on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on May 16, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. Many Vietnamese remain uneasy with China in the South china sea till this day.  AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor and water

The End of an era?  Fishermen work to unload a net full of anchovies during a fishing expedition in the Pacific Ocean. Photo AP



Philippines Prepares Protest vs China Over South China Sea Island Grab

March 21, 2017
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the administration’s planned course of action was in accordance with Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s suggestion that a strong formal protest against Beijing be filed with the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague. File photo

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is preparing to formally protest China’s plan to install a radar station at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in violation of a ruling by a United Nations-backed international tribunal declaring the shoal a common fishing ground outside any country’s jurisdiction.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the administration’s planned course of action was in accordance with Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s suggestion that a strong formal protest against Beijing be filed with the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague.

“I think so, there will be (a protest to be filed). Medyo malakas-lakas ang ifa-file (A stronger one will be filed),” Aguirre said when asked about the issue in a chance interview.

Aguirre’s statement came on the heels of President Duterte’s voicing helplessness against China’s continued buildup of its forces in waters within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

But Aguirre assured the public that Duterte is committed to protect and defend the nation’s sovereignty despite the latter’s pronouncement that he could not stop China from building a structure at the shoal. “Definitely, he will not let go of (Panatag shoal),” Aguirre stressed.

“As a matter of fact, we are strengthening the relationship with the US,” Aguirre pointed out, indicating a potential shift from Duterte’s earlier declaration of separation from the US and a pivot to China.

The filing of a protest was among the five-point strategy suggested by Carpio for dealing with China’s reported plan to set up facilities at Panatag shoal.

The SC justice has also suggested sending Philippine Navy vessels to the shoal.

“If the Chinese attack Philippine Navy vessels, then invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty which covers any armed attack on Philippine Navy vessels operating in the South China Sea,” he pointed out.

Carpio also stressed the government may ask the US to declare the shoal part of Philippine territory and accept the superpower’s offer to hold joint patrols in the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea.

The SC magistrate also advised Duterte to “avoid any act, statement or declaration that expressly or impliedly waives Philippine sovereignty to any Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea.”

Carpio stressed that Panatag is part of the national territory under Republic Act No. 9522 (Philippine Baselines Law) and that President Duterte has the constitutional duty to defend it from China’s incursion.

He earlier warned that the installation of a radar system at the Panatag shoal will complete China’s air defense identification zone in the South China Sea.

In 2012, the Chinese seized the Panatag Shoal after a tense standoff with Philippine Navy personnel who had tried to arrest Chinese poachers in the area. The poachers were allowed to return to China with their illegal harvest of baby sharks, endangered corals and giant clams. The Chinese have never left the shoal since then.

A ruling in July last year by the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague upheld the Philippines’ entitlements in the West Philippine Sea but declared Panatag a common fishing ground. The shoal is only about 230 kilometers from the nearest coast in Luzon and close to 2,700 kilometers from China’s nearest coast in Hainan.

Defending sovereignty

At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella made it clear Duterte has not surrendered the country’s sovereignty over Panatag Shoal or any other area within the country’s EEZ either seized or being coveted by China.

“He has said time and again that he will defend and protect the interests of the Filipino people and will take necessary action at a time most fitting and advantageous to us,” Abella said.

“Furthermore, PRRD has repeatedly asserted that RP is not giving up its claims and our entitlements over the area,” Abella said, referring to Duterte by his presidential initials.

He noted even China has not issued an official stand on reports it was preparing to build a radar station at Panatag Shoal. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), he said, is verifying such reports.

“The DFA is in the process of verifying alleged announcements of proposals to build structures in WPS (West Philippine Sea), since these statements do not reflect the official position of China,” he said.

Duterte earlier declared that the Philippines – with its weak armed forces – cannot stop Beijing from building a radar station at Panatag Shoal.

This prompted Carpio to remind Duterte of his constitutional duty to defend the country from Chinese incursion.

Panatag is part of the national territory, Carpio pointed out, as stipulated under the Philippine Baselines Law.

In his speech in Myanmar Monday, Duterte again ruled out invoking the UN arbitration ruling when dealing with Beijing. But he also vowed to raise the matter if and when China starts extracting mineral resources like oil or uranium in disputed areas.

“Now, if China starts getting oil or uranium or whatever that’s inside the bowels of the sea, I will do something and tell them, ‘We own it. You claim it by historical right, by judgment I won and it’s mine,’” he said.

Duterte also stressed he would not send forces to confront the Chinese in disputed areas to avoid bloodshed.

“First hour, they are finished already. We are not in a position to declare war,” he said.

“But I said to China that someday during my term as President, I will have to confront you about the arbitral ruling and that would be maybe, during the time when you begin to extract minerals and the riches of what is inside the bowels of the earth,” Duterte added.

Not defenseless

Meanwhile, the lawmaker who filed an impeachment complaint against Duterte has asked the President not to portray the country as defenseless against China’s maritime incursion.

“His statement that we cannot do anything is not true. In fact, we have a lot of non-military and non-confrontational options. He just doesn’t want to do them,” Rep. Gary Alejano of party-list group Magdalo said.

During the campaign, then candidate Duterte said if the Chinese intruded into Panatag, he would rush there in a jet ski to confront the intruders.

Alejano has described as “treason” the President’s admission that he had allowed a Chinese research ship to survey Benham Rise, which is part of the country’s territory.

He said Duterte’s statement on China’s building plan at Panatag Shoal “is a defeatist narrative fitting squarely to what China wants us to feel.”

The lawmaker advised the President to listen to Carpio and revisit various recommendations proposed in the past by national leaders and security officials to address Chinese intrusions into Philippine waters.

“He can consult his national security team and other leaders,” he added.

Alejano lamented the Duterte administration is speaking with discordant voices in dealing with China.

He noted that while Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has denounced the presence of China’s research ship in Benham Rise, the President admitted he had allowed it without informing his defense chief.

Alejano urged the President to send the Coast Guard or even the Navy to patrol the Panatag Shoal area.

“The shoal is located 230 kilometers from Luzon, while it is 2,659 kilometers away from the Chinese mainland. Logistically, the replenishing of supplies such as food and fuel will be a challenge for China, not so for our troops since it is closer to our shores,” he said.

“We can strategically deploy and train our fishermen to utilize the natural resources in the area. We could provide them with study vessels and advanced communication system so that we could aid or defend them should they be threatened by Chinese ships,” he said.

He said Duterte should learn a lesson or two from Vietnam in protecting the country’s interest.

Alejano recalled that in one confrontation with China near the disputed Paracels, Vietnam lost several troops.

The former Marine captain said the country could also invoke its security alliance with the United States, Japan and Australia.

In case of a shooting war, he said he would be “more than willing to fight for our country.”

The military, for its part, said it is ready to deploy a navy ship – recently acquired from the US – to conduct oceanographic survey of Benham Rise.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office chief, said they are just awaiting a written order from Lorenzana or from the President for the deployment of BRP Gregorio Velasquez (AGR-702) to Benham Rise.

“We have one survey vessel and the Philippine Navy has the capability to do maritime research, but so far we don’t have the instructions,” Arevalo said. The other survey vessel acquired from the US was BRP Andres Bonifacio.  – With Christina Mendez, Jaime Laude


 (Contains links to several previos articles on the South China Sea)

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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.

European Leaders Have No Intention of Letting Go of Former British Fishing Grounds After Brexit

February 16, 2017

THE European Union’s “desperate” attempt to “grab” UK fish stocks should be fought by the British government, UKIP has insisted.

PUBLISHED: 05:24, Thu, Feb 16, 2017 | UPDATED: 07:44, Thu, Feb 16, 2017
Leaked reports claimed this week that MEPs in the European Parliament are drafting provisions to be included in the final Brexit agreement – including legislation that Britain should not be allowed an “increase to the UK’s share of fishing opportunities for jointly fished stocks”.EU countries want fishing rules which apply to all member states to continue to apply to Britain’s waters after the divorce.

As such, the fish in Britain’s territory would be seen as a ‘shared resource’.

The suggestion Britain could be overruled by the EU – once the split becomes official – has angered British politicians.

Outraged Mike Hookem said Britain’s waters must return to “UK control regardless of what the EU want”.

Leaked report could anger fisheriesGETTY

Leaked report states EU member states want to continue fishing in ‘shared’ areas

The MEP said: “This is nothing more than the EU wanting to have their cake and eat it.”Time and again we are told the UK will not get any ‘special deals’ post-Brexit.

“Well, in that case, it should work both ways, and UK waters must return to UK control regardless of what the EU want.”

The documents suggest the EU and Britain cannot keep to the United Nations stocks agreement without “the continued application of the common fisheries policy”.

The EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was first introduced in 1983 when stocks were low.

CFP sets out the rules and laws that control and govern commercial fishing across the entire European Union.

The Union however, suggests fish moving across the territorial waters of different nations are a shared resource and the common fisheries policy therefore sets standardised rules which apply to all EU member nations.

UK fish stocks used by EuropeGETTY

British waters were shared with EU fisheries in the 1970s

UKIP Fisheries Spokesman, Mike Hookem MEP said: “In 1973 the Government sold out the fishing industry.”This cannot be allowed to happen again. Under the terms of paragraph three of Article 50, all treaties including the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) will “cease to apply” to the UK, and Britain’s waters will be protected by a 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) under international law.

“This will mean that there will not such thing as “jointly fished stocks” when we leave the EU.

“Anything less than getting back full control of our waters post-Brexit will be another utter betrayal of the fishing industry. Fishermen knew in 1972 that their industry had been stolen from them by politicians desperate to get into the EEC ‘club’ and Brexit is our opportunity to retake control our waters.”

MEPs also insist that EU vessel-owners should continue to be allowed to manage boats under the UK flag.

Mike Hookem MEP

Mike Hookem MEP has called for the Government to demand return to pre-70s arangement. Getty Images

Over half of the fish caught in UK waters seized by EU boats, report shows
MORE than half the fish caught off Britain’s coast are landed by foreign trawlers, a devastating report into the EU’s fisheries policy has revealed.
PUBLISHED: 18:31, Tue, Oct 11, 2016 | UPDATED: 18:48, Tue, Oct 11, 2016

UK fishing industryALAMY

More than half the fish caught off Britain’s coast are landed by foreign trawlers

Boats from other seized 58 per cent of the fish and shellfish in UK waters between 2012 and 2014.

This equates to around 650,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish worth £408 million per year, most of which was caught around Scotland.

In contrast, UK fishing boats landed only 90,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish, worth about £103 million, from elsewhere in EU waters each year.

Industry leaders said the study by the University of the Highlands and Islands’ NAFC Marine Centre proved offered a “sea of opportunity”.Scotland’s fishermen are angry at ‘s bid to somehow stay tied to Brussels and threats of another independence referendum.

They argue leaving the EU will sound the death knell of the hated Common Fisheries Policy and allow the UK to control its a 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

First Minister Nicola SturgeonSWNS

Scotland’s fishermen are angry at Nicola Sturgeon’s bid to somehow stay tied to Brussels

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said: “This detailed analysis of these landing figures is a bombshell that reveals the truly shocking extent of how our rich fishing grounds have been given away in recent decades.”Brexit provides a sea of opportunity to breathe new life into our coastal communities by ensuring increased catching opportunities and fit for purpose management within our own EEZ.”

Warning against sacrificing fishing rights to maintain economic links he added: “It would be a monumental betrayal of our coastal communities if this opportunity was traded away in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.”

Boat - UK fishing industry

The Scottish part of the UK’s EEZ covers more than 180,309 square miles. PA photo

The Scottish part of the UK’s EEZ covers more than 180,309 square miles, accounting for 61 per cent of the total.

Brexit provides a sea of opportunity to breathe new life into our coastal communities

Scottish Fishermen’s Federation CEO Bertie Armstrong

More than half (51 per cent) of the fish and shellfish landed from the Scottish part was caught by non-UK boats.They landed 386,000 tons from Scottish waters per year, worth £210 million.

Earlier this year Scottish Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing rejected fishermen’s argument that ditching the Common Fisheries Policy could see the Scottish industry achieve its full potential.

Welcoming the report, Scottish Tory MEP Ian Duncan said: “Every British fisher regards the Common Fisheries Policy as a disaster.”The vote to leave the EU gives us the opportunity to develop policies that work for fishermen, not against them.”

Jack Montgomery, of the Leave EU campaign, said: “There was a time when the SNP decried the wholesale destruction of fishing jobs and coastal communities by the Common Fisheries Policy. Now they say they would trade our stocks away as the price of rejoining the EU.”

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “Our fishing industry is immensely valuable and supporting our fishermen across the UK will form an important part of our exit from the EU – this means ensuring a profitable fishing industry, sustainable stocks and a healthy marine environment.”

Overfishing driving dozens of species into extinction threatening African food crisis, warn experts

February 11, 2017

‘The growing extinction threat to fish off the central and western coast of Africa could seriously undermine food security across the region,’ IUCN says

By Ian Johnston Environment Correspondent
Thursday 19 January 2017

The Independent Online

Overfishing off the west coast of Africa threatens to drive many species to extinction, which could cause food shortages for local people, conservationists have warned.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said the Madeiran sardine and other important sources of food could be wiped out.

Some 37 species were classed as threatened with extinction and 14 more were said to be “near threatened” from Angola in the south to Mauritania in the north.

Illegal fishing in these waters is a significant problem with complaints that European fishing fleets are taking too many fish.

Pollution, degradation of habitats, the spread of invasive species and the warming of the waters caused by human-induced climate change are also all putting pressure on fish populations.

The IUCN’s director-general, Inger Andersen, said: “The growing extinction threat to fish off the central and western coast of Africa could seriously undermine food security across the region.

“Fish provide a major source of animal protein for coastal communities, which account for around 40 per cent of this region’s population.

“In a part of the world where poverty reduction remains a challenge, preserving the rich diversity of marine fish species will help safeguard the livelihoods of local communities.”

Experts studied the populations of some 1,288 bony fish species, the vast majority of those found off Africa’s west coast.

Of those classed as threatened or near threatened, 39 were targeted by fishing fleets and many were food staples.

In a statement about the study, the IUCN said: “The Madeiran sardine, now listed as vulnerable, is one of three sardine species which are all considered overfished within the region.

“The endangered Cassava croaker is estimated to have declined by 30 to 60 per cent over the past 10 years, primarily due to overfishing.

“Croakers are particularly important to local subsistence fishers, who will be most affected by stock declines.”

The area is famed for its fishing grounds with places like the Niger delta providing rich breeding grounds for fish.

But this has been affected by serious oil pollution, development, and the conversion of mangrove swamps for human uses.

Piracy has been a problem in this area, with some fishermen turning to crime after struggling to make a living. Some have blamed European fleets for stripping the seas of fish.

“The study highlights the severely limited capacity for fisheries surveillance and enforcement in the region, leading to illegal fishing and overfishing that imperils national and regional management efforts,” the IUCN said.

“In many countries illegal catches represent over 40 per cent of the reported legal catch.”

The IUCN said marine resources provided food and livelihoods for nearly 400 million people living in western and central African countries with a marine coastline.

Idriss Deffry, marine and coastal coordinator for the IUCN programme for western and central Africa, said: “For the first time, we have comprehensive knowledge of the presence and population status of all marine fishes in the region.

“This will provide critical information for improved fisheries and marine protected area management, and identify further research and conservation efforts needed.”



China has the most fishing boats in the world

 (Links to several related articles)

Philippines: Pirates kill 8 fishermen off Zamboanga — Fishing boat riddled with bullet holes — Grudge between fishing groups suspected

January 10, 2017
Philippine Coast Guard divers inspect an almost sunken fishing boat after recovering bodies of fishermen attacked by suspected pirates in waters off Zamboanga City yesterday.

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Eight fishermen were killed by suspected pirates off Laud Siromon Island in this city early yesterday.

Seven other fishermen survived the pre-dawn attack by jumping off the boat as the gunmen started shooting and swimming toward the island, Coast Guard station chief  Lt. Commander Alvin Dagalea said.

Dagalea said a passing motorboat rescued some of the fishermen while others were found on a nearby island.

Their fishing boat, F/B NR, was riddled with bullet holes and sank, he said.

Police Chief Insp. Helen Galvez, spokesperson for the Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO), said the 15 were on a fishing trip from Sibugtoc Island when armed men on two speedboats approached and boarded their vessel and ordered them to go to the bow area.

Two of the survivors, Nomar Sakandal and Kervin Banahan, told police that the armed men suddenly opened fire.

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“We managed to jump overboard and swim away but some of our companions were killed,” one of them said.

The bodies of the eight fishermen were retrieved, all of them hogtied with multiple gunshot wounds, indicating they were executed, police said.

Dagalea added the unidentified gunmen could be pirates, while a military report said the motives being looked into include extortion or a grudge between fishing groups.

Abu Sayyaf militants are suspected of being behind a string of ship hijackings in the area, and last week, coast guard and navy units foiled an attempt by suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen to hijack a cargo vessel in nearby Basilan province. – AP, Evelyn Macairan