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South China Sea - Chinese Fishing Restrictions

As of 01 January 2014 China's Hainan province required all foreign fishing vessels to ask permission to enter more than half of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea. The new regulations adopted by China's Hainan Province on implementing the country's fishing law replaced the previous regulations that went into effect in 1993.Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said there was nothing unusual about the new restrictions."As a maritime nation it is normal and routine for China to make rules to regulate the conservation and management of maritime biological resources," said Hua. "According to international laws, universal practice and domestic laws, the Chinese government bears the right and obligation to manage the biological and non-biological resources on relevant islands, reefs and in relevant waters.... If someone asserts that the technical amendments on a provincial fishing regulation which has been implemented for years will pose a threat to regional peace and stability, it's either due to lack of common sense or out of hidden intent".

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said 09 January 2014 the move will raise tensions in the sea, which has seen a rising number of small-scale clashes in recent years. "The passing of these restrictions on other countries’ fishing activities in disputed portions of the South China Sea is a provocative and potentially dangerous act. These regulations appear to apply to the maritime space within China’s so-called nine-dash line. China has not offered any explanation or basis under international law for these extensive maritime claims.... our longstanding position has been that all concerned parties should avoid any unilateral action that raises tensions and undermines the prospects for a diplomatic or other peaceful resolution of differences. And clearly, passing legislation that claims ownership over territory in a disputed area would certainly be of concern to us..."

Vietnamese fishermen said they would ignore the new regulations. Vo Van Trac, vice chairman of the Vietnamese Association of Fishery, told VOA's Vietnamese service that they will not be kept out of waters claimed by Hanoi. "The new rules will obviously have an impact on Vietnamese fishermen, who will keep fishing in areas of the South China Sea that are within Vietnamese sovereignty".

Authorities in the provincial city of Sansha, on an island far south of Hainan, held a joint drill on January 1 involving 14 ships and 190 personnel from various border patrol and law enforcement agencies. China News Service quoted law enforcement official Wang Shizhen as saying "rampant infringement by foreign fishing vessels" was among the activities targeted in the scenarios. Passed by Hainan's provincial legislature in late November, the new rules say only that permission must be obtained from unnamed "relevant departments" under China's State Council. Chinese law allows for the confiscation of catches and fishing equipment and fines of up to 500,000 yuan (US$83,000) for violators.

The two-and-a-half month fishing ban began 16 May 2013 in most parts of the South China Sea as part of efforts to rehabilitate marine resources, according to fishery authorities. The Hainan provincial marine and fishing department said 9,007 locally registered fishing vessels would be moored. The annual fishing ban, which had been in place since 1999, rant from May 16 to August 1, covering areas north of the 12th parallel, including Huangyan Island but excluding most of the Nansha Islands. The provincial bureau allocated 600,000 yuan (97,500 U.S. dollars) in subsidies for impoverished fishermen to make up for the losses they will incur while the ban is in place. Provincial fishing authorities said fishing vessels with Nansha Islands fishing permits will not be affected by the ban. The fishing ban also applied to foreign ships.

China began enforcing the fishing ban in large swaths of South China Sea, including the disputed Scarborough Shoal, for two-and-a-half months starting 16 May 2012. Some type of fishing is still allowed but the ban "means no fishing will be allowed except for mono-layer gillnets, and hook and line fishing." The enforcement of the ban, running to 01 August 2012, was announced by the head of the South China Sea fisheries administration bureau. The move is a reiteration of the summer fishing ban declared by China every year since 1999 in the waters that it claims part of its territory. ietnamese fishermen have defied similar bans since 2009. Scores were arrested and their boats impounded by Chinese authorities.

The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday said it will not recognize the fishing ban that China will impose over the South China Sea. DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario explained the Philippines has sovereign rights over a portion of the waters where China plans to impose its directive. “Our position is we do not recognize China’s fishing ban in as much as portions of the ban encompass our Exclusive Economic Zone ,” the DFA said in a statement. “However, the President has decided that, in view of the accelerated depletion of our marine resources, it would be advisable for us to issue our own fishing ban for a period of time to replenish our fish stock.”

Wang Hanling, an expert on maritime law with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the new rule targets severe infringement by foreign fishing vessels, based on China's increasing capability to protect its maritime interests. "It is not targeting certain countries. Due to various reasons, China has not been strict in maritime administration. Now we are making more efforts, not just in the South China Sea, but also in other directions such as the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea."

In 2005 the catch from the capture fisheries in the South China Sea accounted for 26% of the total marine catch. In 2005 there were about 79,000 registered fishing vessels in the marine capture fisheries of the South China, including distant-water fishing vessels. Fishing ports and fish markets for the marine capture fisheries of the South China Sea are found along the coasts of Xiamen, Shantou, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Zhanjiang, Beihai and Haikou, in the Fujian, Guangdong and Hainan Provinces, and the Guangxi Chuang Municipality.

The East China Sea Fishery Bureau under the Ministry of Agriculture issued a circular notifying the public that the fishing ban will last from 31 May 2012 until 16 September 2012 on the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea between 35 degrees and 26'30 degrees north latitude. And the ban will end on August 1 on parts of the East China Sea south of the zone. The circular said more than 50,000 fishing boats will be moored at ports during the fishing ban. East China Sea is adjacent to Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Fujian Provinces, and Shanghai city. The East China Sea (some 770,000 km2) has always been a main fishing area in China, and the Zhoushan fishing ground is the largest near-shore fishing ground in China. Historically this area teems with the four major - species: large yellow croaker, little yellow croaker, largehead hairtail and cuttlefish (sometimes known as the ‘famous four’). In recent years, because of bilateral fishery agreements with Japan and Korea, the effective size of the fishing ground accessible to Chinese fishermen has been reduced, as has the catch.

The annual fishing ban on north China's Yellow and Bohai seas began on 01 June 2012, following a bleak fishing season that brought the local fishing industry to a near standstill. The three-month moratorium, which will last until September 1, will forbid all forms of fishing, with the exception of angling, in order to protect fish while they lay eggs, according to the ocean and fishery department of Liaoning province. The ban was observed in areas of the seas located north of the 35th parallel. Bohai and the Yellow Sea is adjacent to Liaoning, Hebei, and Shandong Provinces and Tianjin city. The Yellow Sea (some 380,000 km2) and the Bohai Sea (some 77,000 km2) are semi-enclosed seas located in the temperate zone. They provide good spawning and feeding grounds as well as migration pathways for many aquatic organisms.

The University of British Columbia research ( shows that 30% of all fish stocks in China’s Exclusive Economic Zone have been reported as “collapsed” with an additional 20% as “overexploited” (2006).

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Page last modified: 16-01-2014 19:26:35 ZULU