Will higher fines deter Chinese fishing boats?
By Kim Tae-gyu
The government has doubled penalties on unauthorized fishing in South Korean territorial waters and exclusive economic zones (EEZ) but concern still lingers over frequent intrusions by Chinese crews.
The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MIFAFF) said Tuesday that maximum fines for illegal Chinese fishing have gone up this week to 200 million won from 100 million.
If they do not follow instructions from Korea’s Coast Guard to stop, crews will be subject to 100 million won fines, up from 50 million.
``If the perpetrators violate our sea territory or violently resist our officials, all of their fish and nets will be seized unlike the previous lenient policy of returning them,’’ MIFAFF Director Kim Chae-kyun said.
``Because illegal Chinese fishermen do not have the financial leeway to shoulder big monetary burdens, they will be discouraged from entering our waters due to the doubled fines.’’
Kim added that Beijing has accepted the measures in a set of bilateral meetings since they are against unlawful activities that cannot be condoned internationally.
Yet, critics claim that the government should have made the penalties even stiffer.
A Chinese vessel was held Monday when the new rules went into effect although it was not a serious case, according to the MIFAFF.
Yet, the MIFAFF said that the new international standards were taken into consideration.
``Currently, Japan charges up to 150 million won for illegal fishing while the upper limits of the United States and China are 230 million and 90 million won, respectively,’’ Kim said.
``We took into account these figures to come up with 200 million won, which we think is pretty high compared to our neighbors and the United States.’’
The number of incidents involving illegal fishing by Chinese vessels has been on the rise over the past few years. Boats intercepted by the Korean authorities jumped from 370 in 2010 to 537 last year with 259 incidents already this year.
The issue received national attention late last year after the captain of a Chinese fishing boat killed a Coast Guard Officer trying to stop him fishing in Korea’s EEZ in the Yellow Sea.
One more were injured and the 41-year-old officer was taken to hospital in Incheon, west of Seoul, but died of severe organ damage after being stabbed.
Korea is determined to crack down on the problem and launched a high-tech patrol vessel earlier this year.
The ship, Mugunghwa I, named after the national flower, is equipped with cutting-edge technology such as an electric chart display indicator system, an autopilot system and night-time cameras. It can reach a speed of 30 knots, fast enough to catch Chinese fishing boats.
Asia’s fourth-largest economy plans to introduce four more of the new-generation vessels over the next four years.