Beijing, July 31 (IANS) With four million tonnes of ‘trash fish’ — fish too young or too small to be consumed by humans, China’s over-exploited fish resource is causing damage to an already stretched ecosystem, said an investigation on Monday.
The Greenpeace East Asia investigation has found that the overall trash fish in China accounts for nearly one-third of the overall catch and is equivalent to more than the annual catch of Japan.
“In a healthy and sustainable marine fishing industry, fish species should be allowed to mature before being caught, otherwise they are unable to reproduce and fast reach the point where stocks collapse,” the investigation report said.
The report said that catching trash fish on this scale is placing extra pressure on heavily over-exploited fish resources in China and causing further damage to an already stretched ecosystem.
“This is a classic case of fishing down the food web, and it is quite simply not sustainable,” said Rashid Kang, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.
Urging the Chinese government to regulate this type of fishing practice “before it is too late for China’s ocean ecosystem”, the report pointed out that China’s booming aquaculture industry processes the catch into fish feed.
The investigation stated that in the space of 50 years, China’s domestic catch has deteriorated from “low volume, high value” mature and big fish to “high volume, low value” juvenile and small fish”.
The investigation found that 44 per cent of fish species from a total of 218 species in 80 samples of trash fish taken from 22 ports along the Chinese coast were “edible and economic fish”, of which 75 per cent of fish were juvenile.
A historical analysis of catches in China’s domestic seas also shows a decline in the proportion of edible and economic fish and a corresponding increase in the number of juvenile and trash fish.
“This demonstrates that the fishing industry is increasing pressure on the species most valuable to China’s food safety,” Greenpeace said.