China, the world's leading exporter of marine fish products, needs to adapt its fisheries if it is to meet new EU regulations to combat illegal fishing, according to a report released on Monday.
Under the legislation which comes into force in January 2010, all fish materials imported into the European Union will have to be accompanied by catch certificates validated by the nation under whose flag the fishing vessel sails.
The move is aimed at combating illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC said in its report titled "Understanding China's Fish Trade and Traceability."
"The ability of China, as the leading exporter of marine fish products and the world's fastest growing major economy, to meet such requirements is regarded as vital in the process to curb IUU fishing worldwide," TRAFFIC said.
The report funded by the British government examines whether the systems used by Chinese fisheries to trace the origins of catches will be able to cope with the new EU requirements.
"By illuminating the role China plays in fish reprocessing, the report highlights the extent to which China must be involved in solutions to the problems of overfishing and IUU catches," the report's author Shelley Clarke said.
China's fish processing industry has grown rapidly from 2.8 million tonnes in 1993 to 9.3 million tonnes in 2006, TRAFFIC said, with about 9,000 reprocessing plants in operation.
Despite the statistics, a lack of publicly available data has resulted in misperceptions about China's reprocessing industry.
TRAFFIC cited a recent US government report which appeared "to have been motivated by a desire to explore a booming market for US seafood in China, only to conclude that more than 90 percent of US seafood exports to China are re-exported by China for consumption elsewhere, often back to the US."
Customs systems in China and some importing countries lack the detail to determine the quantities of species of fish being reprocessed and usually do not check whether fish imports are properly classified, the report found.
Tracing catches was complicated by the fact that fish may legally change hands several times while in China, it said.
The report recommended China streamline its monitoring systems into a single, integrated system and develop formal requirements to certify and document catches.
It also recommended additional help from the EU and others to help China comply with the new legislation and to provide intelligence for fisheries enforcement in countries which may be the source of imported illegal and unregulated fish into China.
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