Chinese Red Swimming Crab

Chinese Red Swimming Crab

FIP aims for sustainable crab harvest

For Fujian province and Zhangzhou, the red swimming crab FIP is expected to greatly benefit crab fishermen and local communities.

According to Perry Broderick at Ocean Outcomes, the Chinese government is highly committed to improving fisheries sustainability and restoring fish and shellfish stocks, especially those with high commercial value – and a number of factors has helped drive the FIP forward.

He said that fishing communities, especially processors, are increasingly concerned about the decline of crab and other fish and shellfish stocks, so policy makers are expected to phase in measures such as a further reduction of number and engine powers of fishing vessels, improved gear selectivity and financial support to incentivise fishers to comply with stricter conservation measures.

‘Almost all fishers are men, and the dominant majority of processors are women,’ Songlin Wang said. Image: QMCS/O2

‘It’s all about maintaining the livelihoods and jobs of fishers and fish workers,’ Songlin Wang said.

‘It’s also about access to financial benefits from the public sector in the form of conservation-oriented subsidies as well as potential economic reward from the private sector and civil society to fishers willing to comply with laws and regulations intended to catalyse stock recovery and eliminate IUU, mitigate ETP species by-catch and reduce ghost gear.’

All the same, there have been challenges. Improvement timeframes anticipated for the FIP were a significant challenge for its establishment and have required realistic, patient and dedicated industry partners (importers) who understand the long game of sustainability improvements in China.

Landing demersal catches – including red swimming crab. Image: QMCS/O2

Meanwhile, the commitment of the NFI Red Crab Council has engaged processors in China and catalysed involvement by scientific institutions such as Xiamen University that have been instrumental in scientific data collection and the credibility of investigative results supported by the FIP. The durability of the industry’s commitment has been tested over the past several years during the pandemic and as a result of the US imposition of steep tariffs on imported fishery products from China.

Yet the team’s determination to continue investing in improvement efforts under very challenging circumstances, combined with supplemental funding from Chinese domestic philanthropic sources, is a testament to the project’s staying power, Perry Broderick said.

Pots and traps are also used in the red swimming crab fishery. Image: QMCS/O2

Ed Rhodes is the Executive Director of the NFI Red Crab Council, which has a funding model in place to support the RSC FIP. This covers areas such as dockside monitoring, surveys and scientific analysis of catch samples, desktop research and assessment, public reporting requirements, work plan implementation support and stakeholder convening. He commented that now more than ever, it’s important to ensure that RSC in China are fished and managed sustainably.

‘Sustainable harvesting and management are the life blood of not only the fishery but also the men and women who work in it,’ he said.

A stack of crab traps used for fishing red swimming crab. Image: QMCS/O2

‘Our goal in this fishery, and the goal of everyone in the supply chain, is holistic. Our work is to ensure that the resource is healthy for current and future generations and to help ensure growth and security for those communities. We focus on biomass and business, a practical approach that will pay dividends now and into the future.’

Work such as the RSC FIP has resulted in a growing awareness towards sustainable fisheries and related issues in China. Consumers are also eating more seafood and taking environmental factors into account, with sustainability topics around the value of traceability and the origin of foods becoming more widespread. Amidst a strong need to disseminate information on sustainable seafood consumption, different stakeholders will have to be brought together effectively in fisheries improvement and management, according to Ed Rhodes.

Intensive discussions took place to get the FIP off the ground and to achieve long-term stability. Image: QMCS/O2

‘The key to an effective FIP is industry leadership,’ he said.

‘It takes that leadership to forge an enduring, pre-competitive programme with the only goal to improve a fishery and guarantee its future. The best approach is to work with the entire supply chain to find simple but practical solutions to real-world problems. For example, we have found that realistic input controls, coupled with a few proven output controls, are more effective than counting on draconian, top-down edicts alone. It has taken time to do this, but we see it as the key to long-lasting success.’