U.S. chastises Korea for illegal fishing practices

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U.S. chastises Korea for illegal fishing practices

The United States has tentatively branded Korea an illegal fishing country, after it failed to properly address violations in 2017.

According to a report by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) submitted to the U.S. Congress on Thursday, the agency called Korea a country with vessels engaged in illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing activities.

While there are no immediate repercussions from the designation such as sanctions, Korea will have to go through consultations with the United States for the next two years to improve its fishing management.

“Korea is being identified for failing to apply sufficient sanctions to deter its vessels from engaging in fishing activities that violate conservation and management measures,” read the NOAA report.

Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said Friday it is currently working to pass legal amendments to better meet U.S. standards.

The ministry explained that the designation was made due to illegal fishing by two Korean vessels in December 2017 in waters near Antarctica. The area had been closed to fishing activities from the start of that month, and the Korean ships operated there until Dec. 4, violating rules of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, an international organization that monitors resources in the continent.

The Korean government conducted an investigation, and one ship was exonerated because it had not been notified of the area’s closure. The other vessel was suspended for two months. Prosecutors suspended an indictment of that vessel in December 2018, saying it was a first-time offense.

Under current Korean laws, vessels caught illegally fishing can only be fined if criminally charged. This prompted the United States to request improvements to Korea’s regulations last March such as regulations to impose other fines.

According to the Fisheries Ministry, a legal amendment that will allow fines on such vessels is awaiting approval of the National Assembly. U.S. authorities told the ministry that it would withdraw the designation when the amendment is passed.

The latest designation is not Korea’s first. It was also on the list in 2013.

BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]

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