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New rule to protect fishermen
( 2003-07-17 09:25) (China Daily)

A national statute covering fishing vessels will take effect next month to safeguard the lives and property of Chinese fishermen, the Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday.

It is also being introduced to protect the nation's aquatic environment.

The new regulation empowers China's fishing watchdog to confiscate any boats or ships that are active without the correct compliance certificates, said Zheng Songchuan, a division director at the ministry.

Vessels are removed from China's fleet because they are not sea-worthy, but some owners continue to use them.

Under the regulation, any such vessels found will be dismantled and its owner will be fined up to 50,000 yuan (US$6,000), Zheng said.

Compulsory fishing vessel inspections, a common practice worldwide, have played a vital role in reducing the death toll among China's fishermen, the official said.

A ministerial-level inspection regulation has been introduced over the past five years, tapering off the nation's number of fishing accidents.

In 1990, 1,440 fishing vessels capsized or sank, resulting in the deaths of 936 people, according to statistics from the ministry's Fisheries Bureau. Last year, 536 boats or ships sank, claiming 616 lives.

China had 931,800 fishing vessels by the end of 2002, employing 13 million people, according to Zheng.

But to further protect them and their property, China has decided to upgrade its ministerial regulation to a national standard, with stricter punishment for violations and more powers for law enforcement agencies, Zheng said.

Under the new regulation, any apparatus or material used for navigational, fishing or pollution prevention purposes should not be taken aboard without certification from the inspection authority, he said.

To keep substandard boats or ships out of waters, the regulation requires the initial inspection of any new or overhauled domestically-made or imported vessels before they can be put into operation. Regular and impromptu inspections are also permitted.

Ship building or maintenance should be conducted by qualified factories, the regulation states.

The Ministry of Agriculture has so far recognized 119 designers and more than 1,100 ship building and maintenance factories, according to Zheng.

To enhance the inspection of the country's ocean fishing fleet, the ministry launched its first overseas inspection agency in Gabon, Africa, in November.

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