Joe Biden readies to hook Chinese fishermen

2 minute read

A fisherman carries starfish ashore at a wharf on the coast of Qingdao, Shandong province, China, following an oil spill in the Yellow Sea caused by a collision between tanker A Symphony and bulk vessel Sea Justice off Qingdao port, April 28, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

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HONG KONG, June 28 (Reuters Breakingviews) - U.S. President Joe Biden is squaring off with China’s vast fishing fleet. It could get ugly. Many of the country’s estimated 13,000 distant-water vessels are armed and push claims over contested territory in the South China Sea. At the same time seafood consumption in the People’s Republic is projected to hit $53.5 billion by 2027, nearly 40% of the global market. Thus Beijing declines to restrain this fractious industrial lobby, despite the diplomatic and environmental damage it does.

Biden’s security memorandum signed Monday pledges policies to help countries fighting illegal fishing in alliance with Canada and the UK. It did not name China but U.S. officials told Reuters China is considered a major violator. Enforcement will necessarily entail force; Indonesia opened fire on a Chinese fishing boat in 2016, injuring one sailor. If Washington helps stop China from mass-trawling the waters near Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, the Philippines, Vietnam and so on, it will win friends and save endangered species. The risk, however, is an uptick in violent diplomatic incidents. (By Pete Sweeney)

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(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are their own.)

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Editing by Una Galani and Thomas Shum

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