Task force will combat illegal Chinese fishing

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Task force will combat illegal Chinese fishing

A task force committed to cracking down on illegal Chinese fishing boats will be established under the Korea Coast Guard, local authorities announced Monday.

In Korea’s latest attempt to punish Chinese vessels that continue to illegally fish in South Korean waters in the Yellow Sea, seven ministries have jointly declared a series of new measures that will include the permanent deployment of about 100 police officers and nine patrol boats, as well as a Coast Guard team that will work under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Safety and Security.

The seven ministries backing the new plan are the ministries of oceans and fisheries, law, national defense, public safety and security, interior, strategy and finance, and foreign affairs.

Pointing out that Chinese fishermen have wreaked havoc on the domestic economy by stealing most of the crabs in waters around Yeonpyeong Island, leading to a 64 percent drop in local catch this spring compared to the same period last year, authorities also suggested broadening sea zones allowed for local economic activity.

Between October and November, which marks crab season in Korea, authorities will allow local fishers to catch crabs in a 14-square-kilometer (8.7-square-mile) area, while shrimpers will be able to fish for an hour and a half longer each day from April to May and October to November, during Korea’s two shrimping seasons.

In case a Chinese fisherman wishes to reclaim his vessel after arrest, they will now have to pay 300 million won ($261,000) in fines, up from the current 200 million won penalty. Regardless of whether they pay, all fishers will be handed over to Chinese maritime officials in the hopes that they will face additional punishment, the local government said.

The ministries also said it would earmark 10 billion won to build 64 artificial reefs around the islands of Yeonpyeong and Baekryeong, drastically upgrading the initial plan of spending 2 billion won for 16 reefs. One artificial reef is around 14 meters in length and width, and 9 meters in height.

“It’s been around for over 10 years now,” said Yoon Hag-bae, vice minister of oceans and fisheries, referring to China’s illicit fishing market. “We’ll boost support for fishers and ask the Chinese government to take serious measures to approach the issue from a diplomatic perspective.”

According to statistics from the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, roughly 200 to 300 Chinese vessels cross domestic borders in the Yellow Sea during crab season, many of which flee to North Korean territorial waters during the day and sneak back down in the dark of the night, playing hide-and-seek with military police.

BY KIM MIN-SANG, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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