Overfishing in China

Hi everyone. This is Ping’s ecological thinking. Most of people loves seafood-Crab, fish, mussel, prawn, and they are delicious. One of my friend, her city is near China South Sea. She told me, they have less seafood than before, and the price is getting higher even for the local people. I just realized in China, we are facing the over fishing problems with less marine fisheries. And I never think about it could be happened. Because there is 70% Earth surface is covered by ocean, and only has 30% area covered by land. I thought there are a lot of marine resource we can use for a long time. We have thousands fishing history, and it never had its problems before. So what is reason cause the marine fisheries overfishing in China, and how can we solve this problem in ecological way. 

What is Overfishing?

WWF defines overfishing as,

“Overfishing occurs when more fish are caught than the population can replace through natural reproduction. Gathering as many fish as possible may seem like a profitable practice, but overfishing has serious consequences. The results not only affect the balance of life in the oceans, but also the social and economic well-being of the coastal communities who depend on fish for their way of life.” 

Fishing in China

China is the top fishing Country in the world and has large marine resources available in its own ocean area. The Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea span from sub-tropical to temperate zones with a total sea area of 3.54 million square kilometers. There are about 3000 marine species in the seas surrounding China offering more than 150 commercial species. From now, we know China has a lot of marine resoures and large ocean area. Why it has overfishing problems? First, from the product stage, let’s see, how much aquatic products China supply?y5600e29


Souce from: The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture

From the graph, we can see it has large incensement since 1980. According to the statistics in 1998, 38.3% of China’s total marines fisheries is from aquatic products, the number of aquatic products captured is about 16% of total world aquatic products. After 1990s, it keeps 17.5% annual increasement, which is 11 times to the average world aquatic product capture incensement. Therefore, we know China produces a lot of aquctic products with annual increament. What is reason makes the fisherman fishing more fish? let’s see changs of China during this period.

Population and Economy


Source from: Urbanstanding Modern China

china 5

Source from: Conversable Economist

We know that China is during high speed development. China has dramatically increasing after 1980. After 1980 China has better economic with higher population, which means everyone has better life. Everyone is trying to get better quality of life. As I mentioned before, Before 1978, the diversity and size of China’s fish species were steady, but since the economic reforms took place, both have been steadily decreasing. High population and better economy environment has increase the demand on the seafood. To be more specific, let’s see the changes of China coastal cities. Between 1950 and the 1978 reforms, China’s coastal GDP grew annually by around $2.2 billion. Between 1978 and 2010, China’s coastal GDP increased by over two orders of magnitude with the country’s coastal GDP contribution rising from 50 percent of the total to 60 percent. China’s coastal population also increased from 260 million in 1954 to 400 million in 1978, and to 590 million in 2010. Qiang He, a marine ecologist from Beijing Normal University, he published a report in the journal Scientific Reports

“Our paper shows that economic growth, is major cause of China’s coastal ecosystem changes,”

From these information, we know the customers are increaing demand on seafood, they are willing to pay more money to get high quality of seafood. That is one of reason why fisherman is fishing more fish.  At the following contents, I would like to tell your guys the other reasons caused the overfishing in China. The more factors we find, the more things we know about overfishing. We can find the better solution to solve overfishing problem relate to these factor. it is easier to find the balance between economy and fishing, find the relationship between human and nature. So we can put our ecological thinking into the project, and solve it with the best method. That is reason why i want expain more reasons about the overfishing.

Damage fishing methods and pollution

It is commonly in China using trawl and set nets, which both are very damaging to ecosystems. The method of trawling fishing drags large nets accross the ocean floor, get every fish in their path. More than half of a trawler’s catch can be bycatch-not the harvested target. it breaks the food chain and destroy the ecosystem of ocean. With the developing of China economy, there are large-scale reclamation of the sea, overfishing, large amounts of water water and sewage, the development of offshore oil and gas, and intensive transportation are major causes of damage to the offshore environment. With such high-intensity human activities have led to a serious decline in marine resources.

Lack of marine resouce Knowledge

Most of fishing industry or fisherman, they don’t have much knowledge about the marine resources. They are lack of knowledge regarding fish populations and quotas in a universal standard. Most areas in the world all have the same problems. They don’t know about the ecology system, and there is not limited on the number of aquatic products. They just catch fish as much as they can. Fish are being caught too young limiting chances for population regrowth and replenishment of fish stocks. As a result, the fish that are being caught are smaller necessitating a greater haul thus reducing the population even further.

Fisheries Subsidies In China

“Any use of government funds to specifically help the fishing industry. The could be anything from a cash payment, to tax breaks to free services, like building a port or infrastructure.” With Chinese policy support, it makes Chinese fisherman can continue to fish which keeps increasing the pressure on the life cycle of fisheries. About 95 percent of China’s fishery subsidies were harmful to sustainability. it is relate to government policy in the fishing. I will talk about more about fisheries subsidies in my vlog. 

Other Reasons

Although, Chinese government has control the fisherman fishing area, it still has some illegal fishing in China. Some fishing is unreported, and Chinese government is hard to track. In the whole world, it only has about 1.5% of oceans have been declared protective areas. Same for China, it is hard for Chinese government to protect whole fishing area. The unprotected areas are open to fisherman, which it has high probability been harmed by fisherman.

Effects of Overfishing

Financial losses

In China, fish is an important component of local diets. It is also an important source of money in terms of seafood exports. Millions of people are living rely on fishing industry. If fisherman reduce fishing products, which means they get less money, and the fish industry will get less profit with less fish. The whole economy cycle will be broken. They are many fishing cities in China. The fish is their primary resource for food. The growth of overfishing has caused serious threat to their daily life.

Ecosystem changes

Overfishing can have an adverse effect on marine biodiversity. Every single aquatic plant and animal has a role to play when it comes to balancing the ecology. Overfishing can destroy the environment and marine ecology and completely disrupt the food chain. The South China Sea is a major source of yellowfin tuna, when they are removed from the areas they live in, it means that sea creature further down the food chain are negatively impacted. Therefore, if we overfishing any fish species at any level, it will have a bad effect on all ocean life cycle.


Relate to the ecological principle, there is one called self-design. It is the application of self-organization in the design of ecosystems. Nature is one of best ecosystem designer. We can use it in the overfishing problem, and it is what Chinese government did. Since the 1990s, Beijing has implemented an annual summer moratorium on fishing in the South China Sea, and Chinese government decided to cut back on the size of the world’s largest fishing fleet to protect its stocks. On this way, Chines government reduces the human activities, and let the ocean recover the damage and reproduce more fish. It reduces  pressure on overfishing problem.

One of main reason i mentioned before is there is not rules on the fisherman and fishing, which results in fisherman fishing as much as they can and high damaging on ecosystem. Therefore, Chinese government banned high damaged fishing tools and methods, and gives various stardards about fishing tools with different size of fish.

Another way that chinese government are trying to change the overfishing problem is by working with retailers to educate them on ways to purchase their seafood from sustaiable fisheries.

What I am thinking?

From the ecological model, we are trying to find the relationship between human and nature.

There is a relationship between the abundance of fish in an ecosystem and fishing pressure, sustainable yield, profit, and ecosystem impact. When there is little or no fishing, there is little sustainable yield and precious little profit. As fishing pressure keeps increasing, first the profit peaks and then at higher fishing pressure the sustainable yield peaks. As fishing pressure further increases, both profits and sustainable yield decline. Why not we find the peak where the fisherman can get maximum profit with sustainable yield. Therefore, we can get maximum fisheries while we still can protect the ecosystem of the ocean. 

There is one more thing I am really interested. Since 2002, China has been the world largest exporter of fish and fish prodcuts. In 2005, China was the sixth largest importer of fish and fish products in the world, with imports totaling US$4.0 billion. So what I am thinking is the main reason cause overfishing in China is economy. The current aquatic production is enough for chinese people. The fisherman keep overfishing, because they want to get more profit, and also the fish industries can get more profit, chinese governmnet can get more tax from fisherman and fishing industry. I think that is main reason caused China overfishing problems, and I am sure it happens to every fishing countries as well. Therefore, we should try to find the relationship between economy and ecosystem.

The solution- world wide catch shares

Catch shares is a system of fishing management that is proven to allow fish stocks to replenish, while saving the livelihoods of fishing communities by preventing a sudden collapse. A total allowable catch is established, using scientific data about the health of fish stocks and the environment in a certain area, and catch shares are licensed out to each fishing business telling them exactly how much of each seafood species they’re allowed to catch. Through this catch share system, fisherman get higher profit, 100% of fishing business, they don’t need to go over the catch limits to get the same profit as before, and they actually getting higher profits in such fishing management system.

The most of solutions I mentioned is all relate to government policy. Without government support, it is hard to reduce overfishing In China. There is one which I mentioned before is fisheries subsidies. I will share my ideas about the fisheries subsidies, and how do we solve the overfishing problem through the policy about the fisheries subsidies in my vlog. If you have any other ideas about overfishing, leave your comments so we discuss more about overfishing. Thanks!







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