China's distant water fisheries management policy has made significant contributions to the development of distant water fisheries since 1985. Analyzing the evolution of China's distant water fisheries management policy is conducive to solving China's frequent IUU problems and promoting further development of sustainable fisheries. This paper first summarizes how China's distant water fisheries management policy has evolved, which can be divided into four stages: the start-up period (1985–1990), the rapid development period (1991–1997), the sustainable development period (1998–2007), and the optimization and adjustment period (2008-present). Then the characteristics of current distant water fisheries management are summarized, including how management has adapted to international rules, emphasize sustainable fisheries, diversification and facilitation of management methods. China's distant water fisheries management policy still faces severe challenges in terms of technology, marine rights, management system, industrial structure, and employee capabilities. Finally, this paper highlights the importance of attaching importance to science and technology, re-evaluating distant water fisheries subsidies based on environmental policies and IUU activities, establishing a polycentric governance mechanism with stakeholders at the core, improving the supervision system, and establishing overseas distant water fisheries bases to strengthen international cooperation.
China has been the world’s largest fishing country since 1990, which is mainly due to overexploitation of offshore fishery resources (Xue, 2006; Yang et al., 2016). In recent years, the depletion of offshore fishery resources and the deterioration of the marine environment caused by overfishing have severely restricted the development of China’s fisheries (Zhao and Shen, 2016; Ding et al., 2020; Kang et al., 2018). Therefore, the development of distant water fisheries and aquaculture has become an important way to reduce the pressure of overfishing in China (Liu et al., 2014). In addition, as a strategic industry, distant water fisheries are of great significance for meeting the domestic demand for high-quality aquatic products, ensuring food security, increasing fishermen’s income, and promoting the development of the fishery economy (Mallory, 2013; Zhang et al., 2019; Yue et al., 2016).
About 90 % of the world’s fish stocks have been over exploited or are fully developed, but there is still potentials for distant water fisheries resources, especially small pelagic fish, cephalopods and Antarctic krill (FAO, 2016; Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 2012). Although the industrial fishing of Antarctic krill is controversial, the Chinese government regards the harvesting of Antarctic krill as one of its important strategies for distant water fisheries (Schiermeier, 2010; Tang and Shi, 2010; Nicol and Foster, 2016). Accurate resource assessment, effective catch control and sound fishery management are essential for sustainable fisheries (Nicol et al., 2012). In 2019, China had 170 distant water fisheries enterprises, operating 2654 distant water fishing vessels, and the output of distant water fisheries was 2.257 million tons. The scale and total output of the fishing fleet were among the highest in the world. China has become an important distant water fishing nation (DWFN) (Chesnokova and McWhinnie, 2019). In 2017, among the seven principal tuna species1 in the world, the fraction of the stocks at biologically sustainable levels was 66.6 percent, which has increased by ten percent compared with 2015. It proves that fisheries management is effective (FAO, 2020). If China’s distant water fisheries can achieve reasonable management, it will make a significant contribution to the world’s marine fisheries.ش