Pakistanis to protest arrival of Chinese fishing vessels
Furious over 20 Chinese deep-sea trawlers being given the right to fish in their waters, fishermen in Pakistan have announced that they will protest against the trawlers’ arrival near Karachi.
The Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) announced the campaign against the trawlers’ arrival off the coast of Sindh and Baluchistan provinces in the first week of August.
According to the PFF, fish stocks in coastal areas have already declined by more than 72% since last year due to uncontrolled fishing. Now they fear that the trawlers will further deplete Pakistan’s marine resources.
The trawlers have not started fishing yet and it is not known which part of China they came from.
“These vessels threaten the livelihoods of small fisher[men] by depriving them of catch today, and in future by ecologically destroying the sea,” PFF Chairman Muhammad Ali Shah said in a statement.
Following the PFF’s action, fishermen in the southwestern city of Gwadar have also announced a protest campaign against the vessels.
Gwadar is a central part of the $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In the past, Gwadar fishermen have protested against Belt and Road infrastructure projects that prevented them from going to sea.
The president of the Gwadar Fishermen Alliance, Khuduaidad Waju, said the Chinese ships will badly hurt local fishermen.
“Fishing in the sea is a source of livelihood for over 2.5 million people in coastal towns of Sindh and Baluchistan, and the new trawlers will deprive us of our livelihood,” he said.
The issue has reached the National Assembly with Gwadar representative Aslam Bhootani saying that the arrival of the Chinese trawlers has created fear among the area’s fishermen.
Bhootani said that the deep-sea vessels “have large fishing nets which not only capture a lot of fish but also destroy the ecology of the marine life.”
He added that the fishermen of Gwadar have small boats and can’t go into deep waters. “Local fishermen of Gwadar do not stand a chance against these Chinese vessels, and that is why we oppose them,” he said.
Experts also view the protests against the backdrop of wider resentment against Chinese economic expansion in Pakistan under the Belt and Road framework.
Mohan Malik, a professor of strategic studies at the National Defense College of the United Arab Emirates, said that most developing countries that signed on to the Belt and Road Initiative do not have much leverage to say “no” to China even when its deep-sea fishing fleet engages in predatory practices at the expense of workers and fishermen in host countries.
Faced with depleted fish stocks in the seas around China, Beijing’s giant trawlers are increasingly targeting new waters, such as the Arabian Sea off the coast of Pakistan, to satisfy the country’s appetite for seafood — one-third of total world consumption.