Aquaculture for all

South Korea, China get Tougher on Illegal Fishing

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SOUTH KOREA - South Korea and China have agreed to take even tougher actions to deal with illegal fishing activities to prevent the depletion of fish stocks around the Korean Peninsula.

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The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said the two countries issued a communique earlier in the day in Beijing that aims to better tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities. As of last year 341 Chinese boats have been caught breaking rules.

The latest understanding comes after Seoul took flak for not including an IUU clause in the bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) inked earlier in the year, reports YonhapNewsAgency.

The two sides have been operating a joint fisheries committee for years and there has been a steady decline in illegal fishing activities by Chinese fishermen operating in South Korea's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), although unauthorized operations have yet to be fully controlled. This has hurt the amount of fish caught by South Korean fishermen.

Under the latest deal, South Korean authorities will raise the fines they slap on Chinese fishing vessels that violated rules to 300 million won (US$263,400) from 200 million won, and also have the option to directly confiscate the catch from Chinese fishermen instead of handing the matter over to Chinese authorities.

In addition, the country will create a database on repeated offenders and provide it to China so they can take necessary action. The two countries then concurred on the creation of a sea check point through which all fishing vessels must cross after catching fish that will make it easier for officials to check if rules were followed.

The Chinese side, moreover, agreed to better regulate fishing boats that operate in North Korean waters near the sea demarcation line with South Korea. Such boats have trespassed into waters controlled by South Korea to catch fish and then flee over the demarcation line if they are found to be operating illegally.

"In the past there was nothing South Korea could do about these boats," an official said.

Besides these measures, South Korea plans to develop a electronic permit system that can be attached to ships operating in South Korean EEZ that will allow authorities to check their identity without having to see paper documents that can be easily forged.

The ministry, meanwhile, said Seoul and Beijing agreed on the annual fishing quota within their respective EEZs for 2016 that is unchanged from this year.

Under the deal, 1,600 Chinese boats can enter South Korea's EEZ and catch 60,000 tons of fish, while the same number of South Korean ships can do the same in the Chinese waters. South Korean boats, however, rarely venture into the Chinese zone because of low fish stocks caused by excessive fishing.

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