Seoul raises fishing fine, arms boat inspectors

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Seoul raises fishing fine, arms boat inspectors

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Chinese fishing boats caught fishing illegally in Korean waters will pay double the penalty imposed in the past, the Prime Minister’s Office said yesterday.

Officials announced a set of countermeasures against illegal fishing in the Yellow Sea, a problem caused predominantly by Chinese vessels. The announcement comes two weeks after the death of a Korean Coast Guard officer at the hands of the captain of a Chinese fishing ship.

The measures include raising the penalty for illegal fishing from 100 million won ($86,648) to 200 million won by next March.

The government will also increase by nine the number of 3,000-ton or larger Coast Guard patrol vessels to 27 and replace 18 older and slower patrol boats with new ones over the course of the next few years, the office said.

Currently, eight Korean Coast Guard members team up when they board a vessel caught fishing illegally, and only two are allowed to carry firearms. Under the new rules, all Coast Guard members going aboard will be allowed to carry weapons.

The guidelines on the use of lethal force will also be changed. Currently, Coast Guard members are only allowed to use firearms when nonlethal weapons prove ineffective. Under the new rules, Coast Guard members will be allowed to use firearms if they believe their lives are threatened or if they face serious physical resistance from the crews of fishing boats.

Coast Guard members will also be fitted with new protective and enforcement gear such as antiknife life vests, net guns, grenade launchers and long-distance surveillance cameras.

The government and the ruling Grand National Party yesterday agreed to earmark 932.4 billion won between 2012 and 2015 to implement the measures, including 108.4 billion won for next year. Seoul announced more modest countermeasures against illegal fishing in 2008 backed by only 4.58 billion won.

“The countermeasures in 2008 focused on improving lighter equipment to better deal with resistance by illegal fishermen,” said the Prime Minister’s Office in a statement yesterday. “But the countermeasures the government came up with this time will greatly reinforce the capacity to crack down on illegal fishing and are comprehensive, encompassing legal and diplomatic measures.”


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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