Baengyeong Island Fishing Zone Expanded Near N. Korea

28 November 2011, at 12:00am

SOUTH KOREA - South Korea has expanded the fishing zone off Baengyeong Island near the western sea border with North Korea as part of its effort to increase earnings for local fishermen, the government said Sunday.

The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said "zone A" west of the island has been expanded by 13 square kilometers with the northern limit reaching the 38th parallel.

"The fishing zone now encompasses 57 square kilometers and should allow fishermen to haul in an average of 324 million won (US$279,800) more in sand eels and blue crabs per year," the ministry said.

The fishing area was first opened to a small number of boats in 1998 and expanded to 44 square kilometers in 2001. There has been persistent calls by fishermen to enlarge its boundaries. At present, 99 boats are allowed into the zone and haul in about 1.1 billion won worth of fish each year.

The ministry said because of its proximity to the sea border with North Korea, boats will only be allowed to fish during the day with regional authorities having been told to post a fisheries control vessel in the area to make certain boats do not stray into North Korean-controlled waters.

The region has been a hot spot of inter-Korean tensions in recent years. In March 2010, a South Korean warship was sunk south of Baengyeong by a North Korean midget submarine and in November Pyongyang also shelled Yeonpyeong Island, killing two soldiers and two civilians. Also, since 1999, there have been three naval clashes in the waters off the five so-called West Sea islands located south of the Northern Limit Line, which acts as the sea border between the two Koreas.