Crackdown on illegal fishing boats to get easier
By Nam Hyun-woo
The governments of Korea and China agreed to enhance a crackdown on illegal Chinese fishing boats, allowing the Korean authorities to punish boats equipped with defenses against inspections, immediately.
Also, they agreed on allowing fewer fishing vessels to operate in each other's exclusive economic zones next year. Korea's Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said Friday it came to an agreement including details on such measures with its Chinese counterpart during their annual negotiations over next year's fishing rules, held in Beijing.
According to the ministry, the agreement bears significance because it allows Korea's Coast Guard to strengthen its patrols. So far, relevant regulations do not allow the Coast Guard to crack down on boats equipped with objects hampering officers to board and inspect. With the agreement, having such objects onboard will result in immediate punishment.
In the deal, the Chinese authority also agreed to deploy its patrol boats in the waters near the western part of the Northern Limit Line and resume cross-boarding of officers and joint patrol in the waters the two countries jointly manage.
Cross-boarding was suggested by Korea in order to show Chinese authorities the seriousness of illegal fishing in the West Sea. However, it was halted after a Chinese fishing vessel in October sank a Coast Guard speed boat off Incheon by ramming it.
The sinking led to a diplomatic dispute between the two countries and China requested a halt.
Since 2001, Korea and China have held an annual meeting to discuss fishing in the West Sea. However, this year's meeting was faced with difficulties because of the sinking, which the Coast Guard countered with use of firearms, and the two countries "managed to" agree on terms just two days before the end of 2016, according to the ministry.
In setting the number of boats allowed and the volume of fishing in the two countries' exclusive economic zones in the West Sea, the two countries agreed on allowing each other 1,540 boats and 57,750 tons of fishing next year, down 60 boats and 2,250 tons from that of this year. Among them, the number of trawlers decreased, which the ministry believes is the most problematic, by 29.
This is the first time the volume and the number of boats have declined since 2013.
Also, the ministry said it decreased the number of Chinese trawlers allowed in protective waters off Jeju Island from 62 to 50.
"The agreement was meaningful because we have urged the Chinese government to take responsible measures against illegal fishing and reduce the volume of Chinese boats fishing in restricted waters," said an official at the ministry.