Why Is Chinese Trawler Relicensed By Ghana Authority Despite Outstanding Sanctions?

Fish Trawler at dock
Credit: FCWC Fish

A Chinese vessel in Ghana, Lu Rong Yuan Yu 956, operated by Rongcheng Ocean Fishery Co. Ltd, has been given authority to operate again despite defaulting on old fines. 

According to Seafoodsource, “the Lu Rong Yuan Yu 956 was initially fined USD 1 million (EUR 847,000) in 2019 by Ghana using illegal nets. After that, the vessel was caught fishing in Ghana again despite having not paid its fine, and was then subsequently impounded and fined a second time in May of this year.” Despite the continuous non-payment of fines, the vessel has been relicensed. 

Lu Rong Yuan Yu 956 is alleged to have “been found using illegal nets that were catching sizes below the legal minimum, allowing it to take fish that were below a legal landing size. In addition, the vessel was only authorized to catch bottom-dwelling species, but significant amounts of pelagic species were found on board.”

London-based Environmental Justice Foundation Executive Director Steve Trent said, “all cases of illegal fishing in Ghana must be treated rigorously, with sanctions severe enough to be deterrent, and full transparency regarding how the process is conducted,” admonishing “China and Ghana must work together to prevent cases like this from happening again.”

Ghana’s Illegal Chinese Trawlers 

Despite Ghanaian fishery laws, the issue of Chinese trawlers illegally operating in Ghanaian waters is well documented. Quartz Africa reported that “Chinese control is widespread in Ghana’s industrial fishing fleets despite national legislation prohibiting foreign ownership, a new study claims. Operating through “front” Ghanaian companies, over 90% of Ghana’s industrial trawl sector is now linked to Chinese firms.”

 For instance, according to an investigative report by China Dialogue Ocean, Meng Xin vessels have been fined at least USD $90,000 for fishery offenses committed in Sierra Leone and more than USD $270,000 in Ghana for having committed at least 16 fishery offenses since 2016. 

Even though Beijing has been trying to rein in vessels engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing by canceling subsidies and revoking their licenses, the situation is still prevalent. 

The two sides must therefore explore the most effective means to sustainably curtail this worrying situation. What measures should Ghana and other African countries adopt to safeguard marine life in their waters from illegal Chinese trawlers?

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