THE FLEET THAT EMPTIES OUR OCEANS

China’s fishing armada operates more hours than the next 10 biggest nations combined. Mother Earth and all the marine creatures stand no chance whatsoever against this formidable voracious onslaught.

China has fished out the South China and East China Seas, the Sea of Japan and the Philippine Sea. So now, they’ve set sail with an expanded flotilla to conquer the oceans and all life therein. 

In their wake, from North Korea to West Africa and along the west coast of South America, many thousands of individual fishermen and their families are starving to death. 

How much is enough? More! 

China has big plans. At the top of its list is enlarging the Southern Ocean krill take, from 32,000 metric tons to two million metric tons annually, a 60-fold increase. 

Antarctic krill are free-swimming miniature crustaceans that live in humongous schools called swarms. Image credit: Australian Antarctic Division 

That harvest would have disastrous consequences for the entire southern marine web of life, the largest planetary ecosystem. Krill feeds everything, from fish to whales and penguins to sea birds, and they facilitate the storage of immense amounts of atmospheric carbon. 

Krill feed on sea ice undersides, algae. Trillions of krill parachute from the polar ocean surface to the deeper layers several times during the night. Their fecal pellets are stored along the sea floor, feeding an impressive array of bottom dwelling life (e.g. amphipods {small crustaceans}, sea worms and so many others). There’s no waste in nature. 

Each year, Antarctic krill sequester the equivalent amount of atmospheric CO2 to offset the emissions of 35 million automobiles. 

Horrifyingly, the climate crisis has felled 80% of Western Antarctica’s krill population. No sea ice. No krill. No life. 

If China increases the Antarctic krill harvest amid this worsening climate catastrophe, it will force this breathtaking marine ecosystem into runaway collapse. Unacceptable. 

Meanwhile in the Pacific Ocean, China’s fishing fleet has ballooned by 500% since 2012. It’s accelerating tunas and sharks on the fast track to extinction. 

Longline fisheries are a horrid curse that wound, scare and kill many, many dozens of billions of our marine kith and kin, annually. There are enough longlines with a couple billion hooks to encircle the equator 522 times. 

China’s insatiable demand for tuna is emptying the sea. Never before, since the dawning of life in the oceans, has everything that’s large been removed. There’s nothing like it within any of the previous mass extinctions. Man’s greedy disdainful plunder is utterly appalling. 

Each year, fisheries are killing enough marine life to fill 122 Empire State Buildings. That is one building’s worth of packed lifeless creatures every 2.9 days! Image credit: silverfinart.com 

I asked respected fisheries professor Daniel Pauley, University of British Columbia: “How many lifeforms are being hooked, netted, caged, shot, sliced, bludgeoned, harpooned, stabbed, choked, crushed, gaffed and tortured with metal rods driven into their spines by fisheries?” He told me in an email, “A quick guess is 10 trillion to 100 trillion per year.” 

At this unfathomable pace, Dalhousie University professor Boris Worm and others calculated that the oceans would run out of living creatures some time during the fourth decade of this century. 

Chinese bottom trawlers are undoing the greatest storehouse of carbon on Earth, seabeds. Bottom trawling demolishes the sea floor and the slowest growing organisms on the globe, cold coral seamount gardens. After fisheries ruins and captures everything on the floor, it releases as much CO2, each year, as the world’s entire aviation industry. That means bottom trawling it’s adding much more heat to the fossil fuel and wood pellet stoked oceans. Irreversible damage. 

As longline and purse seine surface fisheries deplete the oceans, more bottom trawlers are finishing off seabed marine life and the Gen Zs (under 26s) chance of surviving past midcentury. 

We cannot inhabit Earth with lifeless oceans. Hence, WE THE PLANET LOVERS demand an end to the annihilation of all marine life by China and every other fishing nation. The 30% proposed protected areas within the oceans are not sufficient enough. In order to heal, we must leave the oceans in their entirety alone for at least a century. 

Join the climate and extinction strikes, and the old-growth forest blockades. Become an ocean defender. Support the vital conservation work of Sea Shepherd. Write and talk ( if possible!) to your local council. 

Dr. Reese Halter

. .  . is an environmentalist  based in California who visits here regularly.   

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