Our bloody sea warIt is regrettable that a 44-year-old Chinese fisherman was fatally shot by a rubber bullet fired by the Korean Coast Guard on Tuesday. The tragedy, however, seems to have resulted from the Chinese fishermen’s vehement resistance of our patrol ship’s effort to curb their illegal fishing in our Exclusive Economic Zone. Though more details are needed to find out what really happened, we are convinced that our Coast Guard’s efforts to crack down on Chinese fishermen’s unlawful fishing in our waters are legitimate.
Chinese fishermen are notorious for their illegal fishing and their use of violence when they are raided. The Chinese themselves call their fishing an act of piracy. As evidenced in a number of cases already, it is the Chinese fishing boats, armed with clubs and sharp steel sticks, that indeed look like pirate ships. In fact, when our Coast Guard confronts them, as it is forced to do regularly, they are risking their lives. A corporal was stabbed to death by a Chinese fisherman last December and another officer drowned after being hit with a blunt instrument three years ago.
The Chinese fishermen’s unfettered rampage over the seas stems from Chinese authorities’ unwillingness to put the brakes on their illegitimate acts because their own fishing resources are increasingly depleted. That’s why Chinese authorities have virtually taken the position of leaving the situation as it is. Fortunately, Korea and China have made a noticeable improvement on the issue by establishing a hotline between the two governments in an effort to control the Chinese illegal fishing after the sorrowful death of an officer from the Incheon Coast Guard last December. However, no improvement was made in curbing and penalizing Chinese fishermen who resorted to violence during raids because Beijing strictly adheres to protection of their fishermen, according to our Coast Guard.
China’s illegal fishing continues to worsen as seen in the statistics: 370 fishing boats were caught in 2010 and the number is expected to rise to 700 this year. That causes massive damage to our fishermen as witnessed by a drastic decrease of the amount of cutlass fish being caught: from 63,739 tons in 2006 to 33,101 tons last year. We cannot but beef up our crackdowns on Chinese illegal fishing until China proactively starts to control the illegal practice. We urge Beijing to take a forward-looking attitude if it really wants to put an end to this bloody war at sea.