Extra-regional fishing fleets present in the Indian Ocean: Navy

Extra-regional fishing fleets present in the Indian Ocean: Navy

All vessel movements on the high seas are monitored by the Navy. Photo for representation. | Photo credit: The Hindu

More than 200 Chinese fishing vessels have been monitored in the Indian Ocean in the first half of this year, according to the Indian Navy, even as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing continues to rise across the country. beyond the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of India. Most of the illegal activities are in the Northern Indian Ocean (IOR) region.

IUU fishing depletes fish stocks, destroys marine habitats, disadvantages fishers and impacts coastal communities, especially in developing countries.

Chinese fishing vessels, fishing vessels from European Union countries and other countries outside the region have been observed fishing in the Indian Ocean, the navy said in its written response to questions. of The Hindu. “The presence of extra-regional offshore fishing fleets has been monitored by the Information Management and Analysis Center (IMAC). Around 200 to 250 Chinese fishing vessels were monitored in the Indian Ocean, with a large concentration in the northern Indian Ocean,” the navy said in its written response, without giving details of specific events. “A total of 392 reported incidents of IUU fishing were monitored in 2021, compared to 379 in 2020 in the Indian Ocean.”

As noted earlier, there has been an increasing incidence of Chinese deep-sea fishing trawlers in the Indian Ocean in addition to an overall increase in China’s maritime presence in the region. Incidentally, two Chinese research vessels capable of tracking missile tests are also currently in the Indian Ocean region.

Chinese deep-sea trawlers are a concern for countries in the region, including India, as they operate far from China’s shores and impact local marine ecology. For example, between 2015 and 2019, an average of at least 500 Chinese deep-sea trawlers were present in the IOR.

Unregistered Chinese vessels

In a changing pattern, there is now a huge increase in unregistered Chinese fishing vessels among those operating in the IOR, it has been learned. An official in the know said that over the past two months, nearly 140 Chinese fishing vessels have been monitored while fishing beyond India’s EEZ in the northwest IOR. “However, only about a third of them had licenses for such activities, which borders on categorization as IUU,” the official said.

According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), coastal countries are responsible for resolving IUU fishing issues in their respective EEZs. There are regional fisheries management organizations such as the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement operating under the mandate of UNCLOS as regulatory bodies for monitor IUU fishing on the high seas.

Joint Quad Surveillance

Recognizing the impact of IUU fishing which can lead to depletion of fish stocks affecting marine ecology, the Quad, comprising India, Australia, Japan and the United States, announced in May 2022 a major regional effort under the Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA). It aims to provide a more accurate maritime picture of “near real-time” activity in the region. “He (IPMDA) is expected to catalyze the joint efforts of India and other Quad partners to combat IUU fishing in the Indo-Pacific region,” the Navy said.

All vessel movements on the high seas are monitored by the Indian Navy’s IMAC at Gurugram and the Information Fusion Center – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) which is co-located with it. The IFC-IOR has worked with other regional monitoring centers around the world to improve maritime safety and security, including IUU fishing monitoring efforts, the Navy said, adding that it “undertakes satellite monitoring of vessels operating in the IOR to track these vessels”.

There are two main global regulations on IUU fishing: the Cape Town Agreement and the Port State Measures Agreement. So far, India is not a signatory to either agreement.

Fishing vessels around the world are said to have installed vehicle management systems that not only identify their position, but also require them to record the volume and location of their catches, helping to solve the fishing problem. INN. For example, the European Union has made the provision of this information mandatory for all fish imports. In India, while larger vessels over 20 meters in length have such automatic identification systems, similar efforts for vessels under 20 meters have been delayed.

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