opportunity for marine fisheries reform in china

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opportunity for marine fisheries reform in china
A scientific summary
January 2017
SUPPORTING SCIENCE
AND COMMUNICATING
RESULTS.
Charlotte Hudson
OPPORTUNITY FOR MARINE FISHERIES REFORM IN CHINA
China has a momentous opportunity to restore its wild fisheries and protect marine
ecosystems, according to a new study. For the first time, the central government has
explicitly listed social equity and environmental protection as priorities on par with
economic development. Achieving that vision in the ocean, however, will require serious
institutional adjustments.
The study recommends six such adjustments, based on three years of discussion among
a team of experts from within and outside China. This fact sheet summarizes their
findings and recommendations, published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences.
A collaborative look at history
The study emerged from an expert group of Chinese and Western scientists supported by
the U.S.-based Lenfest Ocean Program. Starting in Beijing in 2014, and then in 2015 in
Shanghai, the group met to discuss realistic reforms that could be accomplished within
the country’s cultural norms for governing fisheries resources.
Their new study examines the cultural context, notably the preference for taming nature
and for minimal waste, which helps to explain China’s widespread practice of nonselective
fishing. It also reviews the country’s history of fisheries governance. Key milestones
include the 1978 Economic Reform, which launched an effort to expand fisheries, and the
No. 5 Central Document in 1985, which spurred improvements in fishing and generated a
decade of 12-percent annual growth in catches.
This remarkable growth contributed to the Chinese economy, but also put tremendous
pressure on marine ecosystems. The government has made numerous efforts toward
sustainability, but many have been poorly enforced and monitored, or undercut by
subsidies. However, China’s 13th Five-Year Plan may be a turning point.
THE CHINESE
GOVERNMENT IS
POISED TO TAKE
SERIOUS ACTION
ON MARINE
ECOSYSTEM
MANAGEMENT.
TIME IS OF THE
ESSENCE.”
Dr. Ling Cao
A paradigm shift?
CITATION
The Plan, launched in March 2016, emerges from the current leadership’s agenda of
“ecocivilization,” which aims to “build a resource-saving and environment-friendly society.”
Leaders have followed through with several actions, such as setting the goal of reducing
catch by one-third by 2020, that suggest a genuinely stronger commitment.
Cao, L., Y. Chen, S. Dong, A. Hanson, B. Huang,
The new study argues that China will also need institutional change to implement this
agenda. Accordingly, the authors propose six reforms, described in table 1.
fisheries reform in China. Proceedings of the
D. Leadbitter, D. C. Little, E. K. Pikitch, Y. Qiu,
Y. S. de Mitcheson, U. R. Sumaila, M. Williams,
G. Xue, Y. Ye, W. Zhang, Y. Zhou, P. Zhuang, and
R. L. Naylor. (2017). Opportunity for marine
National Academy of Sciences, 114 (3), 435-442.
Seize the hour
The authors conclude that the central government can transform marine fisheries
management, to the great benefit of its citizens, but that the window of opportunity
is closing as wild fish stocks become further depleted. The paper ends with a classic
Chinese saying: “Ten thousand years are too long. Seize the day, seize the hour.”
Table 1
SIXSix
INSTITUTIONAL
CHINESE FISHERIES
RECOVERY
institutionalREFORMS
reformsFOR
for Chinese
fisheries recovery
Current
1 Governance
and use of
science
and incentives
Science-based fisheries management:
• Fisheries governance by central policy
• Regional management councils, with all key
• Few mechanisms for scientific input into
• Best available science used in decisions, quotas
• Enforcement of sustainability measures is poor
• Fishermen would need to comply with quotas
objectives
management
2 Capacity
Reforms
• Excessive fishing capacity
• Capacity reduction programs have had limited
success
• Subsidies that increase capacity
stakeholders well represented
scientifically determined
Incentives to increase incomes, not catch:
• New incentives, such as individual quotas
• Funding for capacity reduction, alternative
employment, workforce skills, and job training
• Removal of most subsidies
3 Spatial
• Open access to about 99.5 percent of China’s
• Expansion, effective implementation,
4 Regulation
• Fisheries and fishing communities in different
• Uniform fisheries management and
5 Education
• Scientists and fisheries managers have limited
• More educational programs and opportunities
6 Data
• No public data available on fisheries practices,
• Transparent, publicly available data
management
901 E Street NW,
Washington DC 20004
oceans, except during seasonal closures
provinces are subject to different regulations
opportunities to exchange information and
ideas with other nations
catch, stock status, and ecological impacts
E [email protected]
P 202.552.2185
enforcement, and financing of fully protected
marine areas
enforcement mechanisms
for fisheries scientists and managers to learn
from successes and failures of other nations
lenfestocean.org
SUPPORTING SCIENCE
AND COMMUNICATING
RESULTS.
Lenfest Ocean Program was established in 2004 by the Lenfest Foundation and is
managed by The Pew Charitable Trusts
2

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