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The Two Superpowers — Fishing Overlords of the Seas

[This unsigned article is reprinted from Peking Review, #13, March 30, 1973, pp. 11-12.]

FISHING in outer seas and distant waters, the two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States, are out to preserve their position as fishing overlords who can fish on the seas in various parts of the world at will. For this purpose they obdurately oppose the just stand of most countries in safeguarding their fishery resources.

Data published in the 1971 No. 3 issue of the Soviet magazine Rybnoe show that 86.8 per cent of the Soviet hauls (including whales) in 1970 was from outer seas and distant waters. U.S. fishing vessels also sail to the distant South Pacific and South Atlantic for fish and shrimp. According to statistics, the waters over the continental shelves of various countries make up 7.6 per cent of the world’s seas and oceans. They have the most suitable natural conditions for fish to exist and breed and constitute the main fish haunts. More than 80 per cent of the world’s total catches on seas and oceans is made in waters over the continental shelves of different countries. Therefore, the two superpowers’ outer-sea and distant-water fishing is, in the main, actually plunder of the fishery resources in waters over the continental shelves of other countries.

The Soviet Union is a greedy pillager of the world’s fishery resources. Its fishing fleets plough the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the Arabian Sea and other waters, plundering the fishery resources of various countries of the world. During the past few years, Soviet fishing vessels incessantly intruded into the territorial waters of Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador and Canada to fish, and were sometimes detained or fined. They also have appeared frequently off the coast of Pakistan to plunder the fishery resources there. The Soviet Union also sends large numbers of vessels to go after whales in the various oceans.

In the fishing seasons, vessels of the other superpower, the United States, also often intrude and poach in the territorial waters of the South and North American countries which are rich in fish and shrimp. The British paper Financial Times reported in early 1971 that U.S. tuna fleets based in California in 1970 caught nearly 250,000 tons of tuna amounting to 250 million dollars. The paper said that virtually the entire haul was made in an area 200 nautical miles wide and stretching from near the Mexican borders to south Chile. Littoral states in South America have often detained U.S. fishing vessels in defence of their right over their 200-nautical-mile territorial waters and fishery resources. In 1971, Ecuador alone detained 52 U.S. tuna vessels which illegally operated within its 200-mile territorial sea limit.

The two superpowers try to outdo each other in advanced techniques and high-tonnage vessels for excessive fishing, seriously undermining the world’s fishery resources. In recent years, the Soviet Union has emphasized building large fishing vessels of over 2,000 tons and using advanced techniques for large-scale fishing. The British paper Daily Mail said in an article on November 3, 1971, that the new 43,000-ton Soviet ship, Vostok, “is ready to rob the world’s richest fishing grounds of the dwindling stock of maritime life.” The article pointed out that the ship was equipped with helicopters, infra-red photographic equipment, cold-storage and processing facilities and 14 trawlers. It said that “the declining deep-sea catches will be affected even move by the new Russian techniques.” The United States, on its part, is also steadily replacing its outdated fishing vessels and using new technical equipment for large-scale tuna and shrimp operations. The vacuum-cleaner-type equipment of some U.S. fishing vessels seriously undermines the world’s fishery resources.

There is also rivalry between the two superpowers in fishing. For instance, there is their rivalry in herring catches in the Atlantic. It is to restrict operations by Soviet and other fishing vessels in waters off the U.S. Atlantic coast that Massachusetts and other eastern states of the United States have stood for a 200-mile limit. Under an agreement signed in 1968, the United States forbids Soviet vessels to operate on the high seas off the U.S. Atlantic coast in the period from January 1 to April 1 every year. In early 1972, the United States detained and fined two Soviet fishing vessels operating inside Alaska’s 12-mile limit.

But the two fishing overlords are equally opposed to the sovereign rights of other countries over their territorial waters and are plundering their fishery resources. At the United Nations Sea-Bed Committee meetings they acted as maritime overlords. One shouted “opposition to extending the coastal states’ sovereignty over territorial waters beyond the 12-mile limit” while the other insisted on establishing “12 miles as the maximum limit of territorial waters.” One of the characteristics of the Soviet revisionist leading clique’s stand on this question is insolence wrapped in a cloak of hypocrisy. At the Sea-Bed Committee meeting in March last year, the deputy leader of the Soviet delegation, while talking glibly about “making the food resources in the seas serve mankind,” stressed the Soviet Union’s opposition to “extending territorial waters and fishing zones or establishing economic zones beyond 12 miles as the means to solve the problems of fishery development,” and demanded that “consideration be shown for the interests of the distant-water fishing countries.” This is tantamount to demanding recognition of the hegemonic position of a fishing overlord of the seas such as the Soviet Union which plunders the world’s fishery resources at will. To oppose the Latin American countries’ just stand of safeguarding their fishery resources and state sovereignty, the Soviet paper Red Star on January 19, 1972, went so far as to openly attack “certain Latin American countries” for allegedly “expanding their territorial water limits without restraint.” This position of the Soviet revisionist leading clique has completely revealed its social-imperialist feature of trying to satisfy its big-power chauvinist interests at the expense of other countries’ sovereign rights.

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