China’s policies on bottom trawl fisheries over seven decades (1949–2018)

To pursue sustainable fisheries, the world needs to constrain bottom trawling (BT) through effective management. Such change is particularly urgent for China, which operates one of the largest bottom-trawl fisheries (BTF) both in and beyond its waters. We provide the first comprehensive review of China’s approach to BTF over seven decades (1949–2018) based on bibliometric approaches (diversity index, network and word-cloud analyses).

We collated an inventory of 103 Chinese national policies and classified them into seven categories (e.g., input/output control) over five eras: (i) E1: 1949–1977 (planned fishing with limited management); (ii) E2: 1978–1992 (regime shift with input control); (iii) E3: 1993–2002 (EEZ management with multiple regulations); (iv) E4: 2003–2012 (resource conservation with balanced measures); and (v) E5: 2013 – 2018 (fisheries transformation towards sustainability with bans ahead).

We found that China has increased its concerns on BTF, with more frequent and diverse policies over time. Such changes included more limits (e.g., input and output controls) and more law enforcement. However, little was known about the effectiveness of many policies, and some well-intentioned ones (including bans) failed in implementation. We indicate that these policies have been influenced by both domestic (e.g., political will, consumption demand) and international drivers (e.g., international laws, globalization).

We highlight the problems in managing China’s BTF, and challenges and suggestions in policy implementation. This review may help policy making and implementation for BTF management in China and facilitate the dialogue between China and the world in fishery policies for sustainable development.

Zhang, X. & A.C.J. Vincent (2020). China’s policies on bottom trawl fisheries over seven decades (1949–2018). Marine Policy.