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AP and Univision team up on investigation of China’s distant water fishing fleet

In this July 2021 photo provided by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society., A Chinese-flagged ship fishes for squid at night on the high seas off the west coast of South America July 2021 photo provided by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Since 2009 the number of Chinese-flagged vessels in the southern Pacific surged 10-fold to 557 in 2020, according to an intergovernmental group charged with ensuring conservation and sustainable fishing. (Isaac Haslam / Sea Shepherd via AP)

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Last year, hundreds of Chinese vessels were discovered fishing for squid near the long-isolated Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO world heritage site that inspired 19th-century naturalist Charles Darwin and is home to some of the world’s most endangered species, from giant tortoises to hammerhead sharks. The fleet has long been accused of labor abuses aboard its ships and illegal fishing in the territorial waters of other countries.

Josh Goodman, AP Latin America correspondent, wanted to learn more about the world’s largest fishing fleet whose recent arrival to the Americas has stirred fears that it could exhaust marine stocks. Teaming up with video journalists from Univision, Goodman spent 18 days observing the fleet for the first close-up look at the Chinese operations off the coast of South America. He also served as the correspondent for Univision’s investigative program “Aqui y Ahora.”

The joint investigation found possible violations of maritime law and labor abuses. Of the 30 vessels the AP observed closely,24 have been accused of labor abuses or showed signs of maritime violations. Specifically,16 ships either sailed with their mandatory safety transponders turned off, broadcast multiple electronic IDs or transmitted information that didn’t match the vessel’s listed name or location.

Goodman also observed several Indonesian crew members aboard the Chang Tai 802 that has been accused of keeping its crew at sea for years. One of the men called out that he wanted to go home and threw Goodman a bottle with the number of a brother in Indonesia.

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The resulting investigation was widely read,getting over 240,000 pageviews. The story was bolstered by strong visual storytelling,including a video explainer,animation and graphics by Phil Holm,Peter Hamlin and Francois Duckett,and a minidocumentary by video journalist Shelby Lum. Dario Lopez oversaw the digital presentation,masterfully blending videos, photos and graphics into an immersive experience that helped make the piece one of the week’s top stories in reader engagement.

Contributing to the package were business writer Joe McDonald and researcher Yu Bing in Beijing,California-based global investigations intern Roselyn Romero and writers Edna Tarigan and Niniek Karmini in Jakarta,Indonesia.

For a deeply reported,authoritative investigation and a compelling presentation,the team of Goodman,Hamlin,Lopez,Lum, Holm and Duckett earns AP’s Best of the Week — Second Award.

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