Reining in China’s illegal fishing

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Reining in China’s illegal fishing

Korean fishermen took matters into their own hands when they spotted Chinese boats fishing illegally in Korean territorial waters. About 70 Chinese vessels out of a fleet of about 120 were fishing for crabs around Yeonpyeong Islands at the south of the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea Sunday morning. When they did not stop upon repeated warnings, Korean fishermen seized the boat until authorities arrived to the spot. The skirmish took place about 550 meters (0.3 mile) off the NLL, close enough to invite threats and shelling attacks from North Korean coast guard.

But fishermen staked their lives because they could no longer tolerate their Chinese counterparts threatening their livelihoods by stealing away blue crabs from Korean sea. Chinese have been sweeping up blue crabs from the western sea through large trawling boats. As a result, blue crab yields that reached 2,922 tons in 2009 were reduced to 2,420 tons in 2010 and 1,171 tons last year.

But Chinese fishing boats continue to roam around the NLL, taking advantage of the fact that fishers from both Koreas rarely dare that far away to avoid conflict around the volatile maritime boarder.

The Chinese boats have gotten bolder to cross the South Korean waters and venture as far as the bottom of the Han River and net up sea resources in a fleet of 20 to 30 boats. As the bottom sea of Han River from Ganghwa Island to Buleum Island is a neutral zone falling under the jurisdiction of the United Nations Command, our military or Coast Guard cannot control them.

Chinese illegal fishing does not stop in the west sea. Its activities have stretched to the southern and east sea. Authorities must take tougher actions. Korean fishers should not have to stake their lives to protect their own livelihood. Naval and maritime police forces must join forces to keep close watch on China’s illegitimate fishing activities, while authorities take diplomatic actions to persuade Beijing to jointly rein in their fishing boats.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jun. 7, Page 30
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