This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Another Kind of Chinese "Invasion" of Africa

China has been making huge investments in sub-Saharan Africa over the past few years, as I have noted before. It is not clear yet whether this will be good for Africa, or only good for China. A piece of news reported this week in Nature suggests a gloomier, rather than a brighter conclusion. Christopher Pala summarizes a study by Canadian fisheries scientists suggesting that China has been vastly underreporting the amount of fish that it is catching in the waters off of West Africa.
Fisheries experts have long suspected that the catches reported by China to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome are too low. From 2000 to 2011, the country reported an average overseas catch of 368,000 tonnes a year. Yet China claims to have the world’s biggest distant-water fishing fleet, implying a much larger haul, says the study, which was funded by the European Union (EU). Pauly and his colleagues estimate that the average catch for 2000–11 was in fact 4.6 million tonnes a year, more than 12 times the reported figure (see ‘A colossal catch’). Of that total, 2.9 million tonnes a year came from West Africa, one of the world’s most productive fishing grounds.
Ironically, it was Pauly’s team that 12 years ago found that China had been over-reporting its domestic catch by at least 6 million tonnes. Pauly says that mid-level bureaucrats in the country often exaggerate their achievements.
But he says that China’s under-reporting of the distant-water catch is the more important problem. “It shows the extent of the looting of Africa, where so many people depend on seafood for basic protein.”
These estimates required a great deal of detective work, detailed in the article, and of course there are skeptics. But even if the estimates are too high, they are still so far beyond the reported catch that they almost certainly tell us that there is a huge level of overfishing of West Africa by China.

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