SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Korea Times] – June 10,2016 –

Fleets of Chinese boats go virtually unpunished for routinely trespassing into South Korean waters in the West Sea, making a great haul of the crabs in the area. Korean fishermen are seeing their catch reduced by two-thirds at the height of crab season, and their consumer prices are rising because of it.

Therefore, Friday’s joint operation under the flag of the United Nations Command (UNC) to crack down on Chinese fishing boats near the mouth of the Han River was quite appropriate

It involved naval vessels, marines and maritime police in the first such operation since the armistice agreement was signed in 1953, responding to public calls for forceful action.

Fisherman are so frustrated that recently some of them took matters into their own hands and commandeered two Chinese boats that were illegally fishing in Korean waters. But this has failed to stop the Chinese from fishing in South Korean waters and that’s nothing short of piracy.

The sheer numbers of Chinese fishing boats are overwhelming. An aggregate number of 29,600 Chinese boats “invaded” the West Sea during key fishing periods last year, twice that of the year before. It means a daily number of 256 last year; 200 in 2014 and 155 in 2013. This year, the situation is not improving. The government has repeatedly petitioned the Chinese government to intervene, to little effect. Now artificial reefs are being built to tear down the dragnets of the Chinese fishermen, but they are too few to be effective.

Six police patrol boats are in place, but they can’t deal with the Chinese fleets. Owners of the Chinese boats are said to organize private insurance policies among themselves so, when one is caught, a penalty of 200 million won, or $173,000, is paid from it.

Other countries are forceful in protecting their fishing waters. Indonesia uses extreme measures when it catches a foreign illegal fishing boat by using guns to subdue it, and then blow it up. Russia, Argentina, Vietnam and the Philippines are also stringent in protecting their fishing resources against “piracy.”

Second, cooperation with North Korea should be sought. The waters the Chinese frequent are part of the West Sea near the northern limit line (NLL), the virtual maritime border between the two Koreas. Chinese boats often dart across the NLL into North Korea and take refuge there when pursued by Korean patrol boats, only to return when the patrols are gone to continue fishing.

Some NGOs are suggesting drawing up inter-Korean joint fishing areas and conducting crackdowns on the Chinese together. Although South-North relations are frozen, the suggestions are worth studying since they serve common interests.

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