China / Government

Illegal fishing targeted in South China Sea

By Xu Wei (China Daily) Updated: 2016-05-06 08:30

China will step up law enforcement in the South China Sea to prevent illegal fishing activities and rehabilitate marine resources during the upcoming seasonal ban, an official with the fisheries authority said on Thursday.

Zhao Xingwu, head of the Bureau of Fisheries under the Ministry of Agriculture, said on the sidelines of a news conference that enforcement will be jointly conducted by the Chinese Coast Guard and local fishery bureaus.

"We will definitely step up law enforcement in the South China Sea to enhance regulation of our fishing vessels. Meanwhile, we will also step up the regulation of foreign ships," he said.

Since 1999, China has imposed an annual fishing ban in parts of the South China Sea between May 16 and Aug 1 as part of an effort to protect marine resources in an area under its jurisdiction.

The ban covers areas north of the 12th parallel, including Huangyan Island but excluding most of the Nansha Islands.

In the Bohai Sea, Yellow Sea and East China Sea, the fishing ban falls between June 1 and Sept 1.

Yu Xinrong, vice-minister of agriculture, told the news conference that the ministry will roll out a guideline to manage the growth pattern and adjust the structure of the fishing industry, which will make a priority of fostering and protecting fishery resources.

Yu said authorities will also seek to reduce the country's fishing capacity and encourage more fishermen to reduce the number of fishing vessels and switch to other trades.

The ministry has launched four campaigns targeting fishing nets with small mesh and those that often result in higher percentage of bycatch.

Authorities nationwide have so far confiscated about 600,000 pieces of fishing gear that violate regulations, and banned the use of 16,000 unlicensed vessels, the ministry said.

China's territorial waters have long been troubled by overfishing. Around 8-9 million tons of fish can be harvested legally in China's territorial waters each year, but the actual amount reaches 13 million tons, according to a report by Economic Daily.

Overfishing has resulted in the destruction of spawning sites for some species, reducing stocks in China's coastal areas, as well as leading to a prolonged recession in the sector, especially in the East China Sea, the report said.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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