HONOLULU – Early morning in Honolulu, yellowfin, bigeye and other types of tuna, along with swordfish, are put up for auction after being offloaded from ships overnight. Longline boats, 145 of them, operate from this port, trailing kilometers-long baited lines. These vessels mostly fish in international waters at least 400 kilometers offshore, alongside boats from Taiwan, China, Japan and South Korea. Wholesale buyers compete for the catch in an early morning auction, and a single high-quality tuna can fetch from several hundred dollars to more than $1,000.
Confrontations are rare on the high seas near Hawaii, where the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is based and the U.S. Coast Guard maintains a strong presence.
But fisherman here have watched with concern as Chinese fishing vessels intimidate Philippine fisherman in waters that China claims in the South China Sea.
In 2016, a United Nations-backed independent tribunal supported the Philippines in denying China’s claims to the waters. China rejected the ruling, however, and Chinese ships still routinely engage in confrontations in the South China Sea with nations in the region that rely on its fishing grounds.
China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of seafood, and critics say its…