Chinese fishing boats’ illegal overfishing in the South Pacific has been devastating some island economies. According to two former U.S. officials, “illegal, unregulated fishing by Chinese vessels has become common in American Samoa and Guam and as far east as Hawaii.”
Samoa, noted for its volcanic peaks and tropical rainforests, is the southernmost territory of the United States. At one point, a tuna cannery on American Samoa, one of the island’s largest employers, had to temporarily suspend operations due to a lack of fish. China’s fishing fleets, which reach as far as Latin America, West Africa, and even Antarctica, have been adding to the strain on worldwide fishing stocks, according to organizations monitoring the issue.
In the past, the expansion of Chinese fishing vessels and their overseas reach has been fueled by tax breaks on imported fishing equipment purchased abroad, and by subsidies for fuel and vessel building. But it’s not clear how much of a role these factors have played in the South Pacific. Members of a Chinese middle class who value high-quality fish in their diet are believed to be eager to acquire the tuna fish which can be found in the South Pacific.