OP ED: “THE CHINESE FISH INVASION”
For many years, we have heard the story about the Chinese plans to take over the world in 500 years. This is being confirmed by what we have been witnessing in our lifetimes. The bad administration of resources, the greed of dominating oil countries, the waste and political missteps by the "rich countries" have shortened that goal by at least 250-300 years.
We all can see that in almost everything we buy — they are either made in China or the components are from China. From toys to apparel, electronics, car parts, engines, etc., you just name it, they are all made in China. In fact, they are taking on Western businesses by investing the interests that these same countries are paying to China for their debts.
Case in point: China started 12- 15 years ago with an invasion of the shrimp business. Countries like Ecuador, Peru and Brazil in Latin America that spent a lot of their resources to develop large areas in shrimp farms have been devastated with Chinese companies getting into the business, by developing tremendous shrimp farms, all subsidized by the Chinese government. Now, they control the market and prices of shrimp in the world. Many shrimp companies around the world could not compete against their Chinese subsidized competitors, and they closed businesses.
China’s effort now is to take over the tuna fishing business. Apart from having the largest fishing fleet in the world with no regulations, the latest Chinese attack is to the albacore business, and it will affect American Samoa fleet and businesses in a BIG way.
The plan (which is in execution already) is to deploy around 500 longliner boats around this area. There are presently 200 operating out of Fiji. They already have about 50 licenses in the Cook Islands, and they will continue putting boats in Tonga, Niue, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Samoa, and other Pacific islands. The Chinese are buying licenses in island- countries that have no plans to develop their own fleet or have no local fleet; and, they are now promoting an association called Te Vaka o Moana to control fishing grounds, how to fish and how to market that fish. Chinese advice, backed up with money, is advancing in these territories.
Lets look at what China's doing.
They are building 15 tuna loining and packing canneries in China, of which 8 are already making loins being sold to American companies like Tri Marine, Bumblebee, Chicken of the Sea and to some European companies also. They're also building fishing boats that according to fishing industry sources will be unlimited by any regulations or any laws. Also, they are building new tankers/ freezers that will carry fuel to these fleet in these territories and pick up the fish to be taken back to China to be processed in those plants. Remember: EVERYTHING IS SUBSIDIZED BY THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT.
During 2012, China spent US$3.8 billion in subsidies of fuel alone on their fleet. The investment in fishery projects will top $50 billion if you add hospitals, schools and payments to governments to secure fishing licenses according to the Chinese plans.
The results of this incursion of China in this business has reduced by $1000 per ton in albacore price in the last 5 months and has tied up every non-Chinese boat from Fiji, New Zealand, Cook Island, American Samoa and other island nations. The situation is so bad that now many boats are for sale in areas such as Fiji, Cook Islands, American Samoa, with no buyers due to the dark future of the industry.
The Chinese subsidy is total — boats, fuel, oil, crew (opportunities for prisoners to work for minimal amounts in return for reduced jail sentences), transportation, licenses and other operating costs. The domination is so profound that they don't admit observers from any of the countries that they buy fishing licenses unless the observers are Chinese or they were educated (brainwashed) in China. They are willing to pay more for the fishing licenses in exchange for these privileges. Now, no observers and transshipping on the high seas means that they can catch everything (including endangered or banned species) and anything and send it to China without controls.
In Costa Rica, where I was born, the Chinese built a monumental stadium, bridges, schools and hospitals. In return, they got fishing licenses, broke the local fishing fleets and now — they left — but not before cleaning up the Costa Rica’s territorial waters of sharks, yellowfin, bigeye and other species. Scientists calculate that it will take 50 - 75 years to restore the fishing grounds of the past in Costa Rica.
Are we going to let this happen here in the South Pacific? What can we do?
When we talk about China, we're including Taiwan, same money, same blood, same goal and the political division that appears to be is just a mirror (nowadays) to confuse the world, because the reality is that money buys everything, and the money comes from the big China.
What really worries me is the penetration and the power that they're demonstrating to have in the U.S. institutions like the Western Region Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC). During the last meeting held here in American Samoa, the Council themselves recommended the participation of American Samoa in Te Vaka O Moana even though Te Vaka O Moana membership is not following the rules that the Council and the federal government ask the US boats to follow in order to manage the fisheries. Is this being done for money, lack of perspective of the larger picture or just being naïve?
The Chinese are rejecting the observers from the islands; on the other hand, this is not a choice for our US boats — they must carry US observers when instructed to do so. I brought this to the WPRFMC’s attention and after a few minutes, I was told to sit down. How can the most regulated fleet in the world (with the help of the WPRFMC) compete with a subsidized and unregulated fleet? The American fleet is an endangered species, this needs to be addressed.
Do we think (naively) that China is investing $50 billion in boats, tanks/ freezers, loining plants, subsidies, etc. to give jobs to American Samoans as anticipated by the promoters of Te Vaka o Moana?
Come on, China has 1.4 billion people to feed, and it is their priority to improve their food security and provide sources of income for their citizens. They will do anything to dominate this business but in the end, the fish will be processed in China and packed in China.
That’s the reality. Some experts often see only what they know or think to be the truth, rather than what is in front of their eyes.
(Mr. Sanchez is an American Samoan resident and owner of Longline Services, Inc. an American Samoan company that owns and operates longliners out of American Samoa)