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Chinese Govt Needs To Act To Save Fishermen

ANALYSIS - Depleted stocks are forcing Chinese fishermen to enter other fishing grounds and tension continues to mount between China and South Korea, things are looking like they could get worse, writes Charlotte Johnston, TheFishSite editor.

In December the South Korean government announced tougher measures to be taken on illegal fishermen after a South Korean officer was killed in a violent clash with Chinese fishermen.

Tension is rising, as more illegal Chinese fishermen are entering Korean waters. The Korean government says between 2,000 and 3,000 Chinese fishing boats operate illegally in Korean territory each day during peak season. Between January and November last year, 497 ships were caught, compared with 370 the previous year.

Chinese fishermen are accusing South Korean coastguards of "using any excuse to impose a fine". There are also reports from both sides of increasingly aggressive behaviour.

Korean officers boarding Chinese ships have been attacked with metal pipes and knives, according to the coast guard, while Chinese boats have also been spotted banding together to thwart local authorities.

Earlier this month, China and South Korea agreed to reinforce bilateral cooperation on illegal fishing and set up a new consultative body that meets twice a year to handle the issue.

The latest piece of news is that South Korea is looking to implement a bill that will double fines against illegal fishing.

Waiting for approval is a bill that would see the maximum fine levied against illegal fishing rise up to 200 million won (US$176,056) from the current 100 million won ceiling.

The bill would also allow coastguard officers to confiscate boats and equipment, if they were captured being used for illegal fishing.

The question is why have Chinese fish stocks depleted so much - and what has the Chinese government being doing all this time?

Chinese fishermen are being forced into illegal activities because their own government and country's resources have failed them.

Resource management plans need to be put in place to encourage stock recovery and alternative sources of income need to be found for struggling Chinese fishermen to prevent South Korean fishing stocks from being depleted.

Charlotte Johnson

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