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A América do Sul encara a pesca ilegal chinesa por sua própria conta e risco

- THE NATIONAL INTEREST - Santiago Previde - NOV 4, 2021 -

Pesca ilegal, não declarada e não regulamentada (sigla em inglês IUU)

A indústria pesqueira é uma atividade econômica vasta e crescente. Enquanto em 1920 captava e produzia pouco mais de 20 milhões de toneladas, em 2018, o número havia crescido para 180 milhões. Estima-se que a pesca IUU gere entre US $ 10,5 e US $ 36,4 bilhões e representa aproximadamente 14 a 33% da captura total de peixes. As práticas de pesca predatória da Milícia Marítima das Forças Armadas Popular, não raro desliga seus sistemas de localização legalmente exigidos e tem comportamento agressivo em alto mar. Ademais está sob suspeita de atuar no contrabando de armas, tráfico de pessoas, drogas y otras cositas más.

On July 16, 2020, the Ecuadorian Navy detected a fleet of approximately 250 Chinese-flagged fishing vessels just outside the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Galápagos Islands. The fleet continued to operate for several weeks and, for periods over eight hours, the ships turned off their legally required localization systems. Naturally, different actors in the region raised suspicions over these apparently illegal activities. This was not the first time South American states dealt with alarming cases of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing on their coasts.

However, the event in the Galápagos was particularly disturbing and acted as a spark for the international community. The Islands are a unique territory considered a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Agency (UNESCO). Most importantly, it is likely that the deepening of U.S.-China competition is also playing a critical role in the increasing view of IUU fishing as a threat to the region’s national security. Shortly after the incident in the Galápagos, the United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) expressed firm support for Ecuadorian efforts against illegal fishing. Two weeks later, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the Chinese government and demanded it enforce a transparent zero-tolerance policy on illegal fishing.

Since then, different regional actors have been increasingly focused on IUU fishing. Furthermore, the United States supported specific initiatives aimed at strengthening the patrolling capacities of national governments. IUU fishing was traditionally discussed as an economic and environmental problem; now, it is also being framed as an irregular security threat. So, is IUU fishing a threat to national security in South America? If so, should the People’s Republic of China (PRC) be held accountable? Or is the United States exaggerating the problem to counter China?

The fishing industry is a vast and growing economic activity. While in 1920 it captured and produced barely over 20 million tons, in 2018, the number had grown to 180 million. Consequently, IUU fishing, the illicit counterpart of the fishing industry, is also growing. It is estimated to generate between $10.5 to $36.4 billion and represents approximately 14 to 33 percent of the total fish capture. While law-abiding companies comply with numerous regulations that ensure sustainability, workers’ rights, and fair competition, vessels that engage in IUU fishing do not. As its name suggests, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing acts in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).


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