[ROSTRUM]A Fine Fishing Agreement With China

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[ROSTRUM]A Fine Fishing Agreement With China

On June 30, a new Korea-China fisheries agreement took effect; the pact aims to impose more order on Yellow Sea fisheries zones. Before the agreement, Chinese fishing boats were hovering at the outer limits of Korea's territorial waters, overfishing, catching immature fish and polluting the sea with their aged boats and calling for emergency shelter at our ports.

I am glad that the fisheries agreement has made it possible for our government to provide protection to Korean fishermen and regulate these bad practices.

Governing the entire body of water between the two countries, the agreement contains new maritime divisions. A strip of water close to each country's coast is termed the exclusive economic zone. There are also "transitory fishing zones," "provisional measure zones" and zones where existing fishing regulations have been maintained.

Boats are prohibited from entering foreign exclusive economic zones without the permission of the national authority. The transitory fishing zones are situated at the outer limits of the economic zones Here, boats from either country can fish provided they adhere to the stock conservation measures decided by the nation in question. In four years' time, the transitory fishing zone will be absorbed into each side's exclusive zones. At the limits of the transitory fishing zones, at the center of the Yellow Sea, is the provisional measure zone. Here both countries can fish according to regulations agreed by the Korea-China joint fishery commission. In the East China Sea, current fishing patterns will be maintained.

These various grades of zones may be confusing, but that is the result of compromise. The transitory zones in particular have few precedents the world over, but Korea worked to bring China, which was initially loathe to sign any agreement, to the negotiating table.

The biggest hurdles in the negotiations were the issues of fishing at the mouth of the Yangtze River and fishing in the exclusive economic zones. The final resolution allows Korean fishing boats to fish in the Yangtze River area for two years, at the end of which the Korean side will reduce its catch by 30-50 percent (calculated according to the catch in the first year). After stocks recover in the region, Korean boats will be allowed to resume fishing.

In my view, this agreement is acceptable considering the new international emphasis on the conservation of resources. Also, the Yangtze river area is a spawning ground. Many of these young fish later migrate to Korean waters.

The conditions decided for fishing in the exclusive zones include to the number of boats given permission to fish and the catch limit. China is allowed twice as many boats in Korea's zone as Korea is allowed in China's. China has been allocated a catch of 109,000 tons a year in Korea's zone, while Korea has been allocated 60,000 tons in China's. China has a clear advantage in numbers, but again I believe the agreement was well-negotiated, considering that the catch allocated to China is just a quarter of what it pressed for. Also, the agreement provides that these quotas will be equalized in three and a half years. A coup for Korea in the agreement is the significant shift southward to the southern limit of the zone in which existing fishing patterns are maintained.

In the enforcement of the agreement, we should remember two things. First of all, we must ensure that the agreement is thoroughly implemented. Many Chinese fisheries bodies oppose the agreement, and there are many Chinese fishing vessels that are not registered with Chinese authorities. Therefore, it is necessary to increase the strength of the Korean maritime police and solicit the cooperation of the Chinese government. This depends on Korea's diplomatic ability.

The Korean government should also take measures to support local fishermen learning to work within the new agreement.


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The writer is an emeritus professor of international law at Kyunghee University.

by Kim Chan-kiu

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