US ally seizes Chinese vessels

South Korea’s Coast Guard seized five Chinese vessels for allegedly fishing illegally in the country’s waters late last month, confiscating boats and deporting several crew members.

The coast guard said it carried out the raid while on patrol with the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

An exclusive economic zone is a 200-nautical-mile (230-mile) zone in which maritime law grants a coastal country the sole right to natural resources.

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing significantly harms global fish stocks, ecosystems, and the livelihoods of lawful fisherfolk. China, with the world’s largest distant-water fishing fleet, plays a substantial role in this issue.

The joint patrol’s 30 participating vessels and three aircraft waters were operating in the vicinity of Jeju Island from March 25-31, Korea JoongAng Daily reported.

The country’s coast guard said that, on average, 300 Chinese vessels fish illegally in the country’s exclusive waters each day, with that figure dropping to an estimated 140 during periods of intensified crackdowns.

One of the Chinese boats had prepared 31 large fishing nets, each one worth over $44,000, according to the maritime law enforcement agency. Patrol members destroyed 20 of these and planned to take possession of the others.

A Chinese vessel was also caught trespassing in waters near the de facto maritime boundary separating South Korea from the North.

The crew was found to have underreported their catches. They were also using a type of net banned in South Korea because it was specially designed to catch even young fish, depleting local stocks.

The Coast Guard issued a total of $333,000 in fines and arrested one of the boats’ captains. Five of the Chinese nationals were later deported, according to the report.

South Korean Coast Guard Joins Joint Drill
Indian and South Korean Coast Guard ships in the Bay of Bengal on June 10, 2016. South Korea’s Coast Guard seized five Chinese vessels for allegedly fishing illegally in March.

Arun Sankar/AFP via Getty Images

“We will take strong measures against those who conduct illegal fishing activities, which ruin marine resources by sweeping up young fish,” Korea JoongAng Daily quoted one Coast Guard official as saying.

The official pointed out that Seoul regularly discloses illegal fishing activities with international perpetrators’ countries of origin during diplomatic talks and presses them to take preventative action.

Newsweek reached out to the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., and the Korea Oceanographic Data Center with written requests for comment.

Chinese fishing vessels are often linked to overfishing and resource exploitation in international waters and in the exclusive economic zones of other nations, challenging efforts to sustain marine populations and enforce regulations.

Last month, Chinese fishing boats suspected of breaking Vanuatu’s fishing laws were boarded by officials of the South Pacific nation’s fisheries agency, along with U.S. Coast Guard members who were patrolling with them under a capacity-building program known as Operation Pacific Blue.