Responsible tuna fishing as a guarantee of sustainable future

The Spanish tuna fleet believes Europe must start to reflect on the criteria for fish product imports from Chinese fleets

The Spanish tuna fleet believes Europe must start to reflect on the criteria for fish product imports from Chinese fleets

The Spanish tuna fleet united under OPAGAC believes that the time has come for Europe to open a debate and reflect in depth on the criteria the EU has currently established for fish product imports from Chinese fleets, due to the latest information made public by different NGOs and various Asian media outlets, on the degrading treatment of their crews, including burials at sea of sailors who, allegedly, fall victim to COVID-19.

The denounced facts occurring on the Chinese ship Long Xing 629 have resulted in the intervention of the Indonesian government, as the sailors’ country of origin. As well as opening a criminal investigation into the holding company (Dalian Ocean Fishing), which operates another 32 tuna boats, the Indonesian government has requested explanations from the Chinese authorities that, in turn, have announced their cooperation with the investigation[1].

OPAGAC reports that these latest events have caused a flood of indignation among the European fleets that operate under strict compliance of the different laws regulating this fishing activity worldwide, with special focus, as in the case of the Spanish fleet, on the strengthening of crews’ social and employment rights.

OPAGAC has been denouncing the degrading treatment of Chinese ship crews for some time, including cases of slavery and child exploitation, a practice before which “Europe cannot continue to turn a blind eye, allowing fish imports from these fleets for domestic consumption by EU citizens”, highlights its managing director, Julio Morón.

In fact, and according to a study by the Spanish fleet, European tuna imports from Chinese and South-East Asian fleets, which are exempt from tariffs, have risen from 5% in 2012 to 53% in 2019. In total, Europe imported over 79,500 tonnes of tuna for domestic consumption from these fleets last year. In the opinion of OPAGAC, the comparative disadvantage for Community production, which complies with all legal requirements, is enormous. According to this organisation, the application of Convention 188 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), now in force, must be required of all imports to the Community market, to guarantee that European consumers do not consume fish from boats with slaves on board or from those that do not respect the minimum social conditions or salaries set by the ILO.

In the opinion of OPAGAC, the health crisis triggered by COVID-19 and its impact on the safety and well-being of crews has highlighted the situation of the sailors in the Chinese fleet, as they are often abandoned to their fate on board the vessels. “In contrast”, declares Morón, “European tuna fleets have made a great effort to overcome innumerable obstacles and relieve our crews safely, as is the case with the Spanish fleet that, on 9 May, managed to transfer 189 crewmen to the Seychelles and repatriate another 184.” Morón ended, “Europe cannot be indifferent to the discrimination it practices, in this case against its own fleets with the Chinese, and also with a product that is consumed by almost all European citizens”.


[1] The link included below contains the Japanese television report with images of the burial at sea of sailors. Spectators are warned they may find the contents upsetting:



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