context: Reportedly the world’s biggest subsidiser of distant-water fishing, Beijing is always under pressure during WTO discussions to end harmful fishing subsidies. Striving to preserve preferential terms under which it shelters as an LDC, Beijing is finally adjusting its subsidy scheme. Direct support for fishing activities, not least fuel subsidies, will be gradually replaced by those encouraging cutting fishing vessels and developing sustainable aquaculture, as well as guiding and training fishermen to move towards aquaculture.

Six years after the initial fishery subsidy reform, excessive offshore fishing still burdens the sector, acknowledges MARA (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs). The effort of strengthening aquaculture production has yet to create enough employment opportunities for fishermen encouraged to quit fishing. The subsidy policy is therefore tailored to reduce offshore fishing while supporting aquaculture and processing. Aiming at sustainable development domestically, the new policy also reflects Beijing’s willingness to follow its WTO commitment to reforming harmful fishing subsidies.

Two types of subsidies were clarified. A fishery development fund will support key national programs, including

  • building national marine ranches, restoring the marine environment and fishing resources
  • updating fishery facilities, including
    • fishing, waste disposal and fire equipment on offshore and DWF (distant-water fishing) vessels
    • distant- and deep-water mariculture facilities, such as net cages and smart mariculture
    • facilities for initial processing and cold storage of aquatic products
  • developing fishing port infrastructure, prioritising
    • coastal fishing port economic zones
    • DWF bases
  • support for ‘green’ aquaculture
    • standardisation of pool aquaculture
    • tailwater treatment
    • smart water-quality monitoring and an environmental control system
  • compliance with international regulations
    • prioritising DWF vessels following regulations and protecting global fishing resources
    • supporting fishing resources monitoring and survey

General transfer payments from central to local governments will continue to support the regional fishery sector. While strictly controlling offshore fishing subsidies, local regulators will incentivise fishermen to turn from fishing to aquaculture.