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(Yonhap Editorial) Eradicate illegal fishing by Chinese boats in Korean EEZ
SEOUL, Dec. 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has declared war against illegal fishing by Chinese fishing boats in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

   Prosecutors said Sunday they will levy heavier fines on Chinese boats caught illegally fishing in South Korea's EEZ. The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office has ordered prosecutors to raise the amount of security collateral for captured ships that have trespassed into the Korean EEZ from up to 70 million won (US$62,056) to 100 million won beginning this month.

   Those caught transferring fish to other ships will face a fine of up to 70 million won, while breaching fishing zones will be punishable with fines of up to 50 million won, 10 million won more than before.

   Prosecutors said they will stick to their policy of detaining those suspected of violence while at sea for investigation while maintaining close cooperation with the National Maritime Police to root out such offenses.

   Despite the government's repeated pledges to crack down on illegal Chinese fishing boats in the EEZ, the number of Chinese fishermen's violations has increased and the degree has intensified, often resulting in violence.

   The number of Chinese fishing boats caught while illegally fishing in the South Korean EEZ since 2006 reached 2,600 and that of the Chinese fishermen arrested by the authorities is close to 800. In the first 11 months of this year, a total of 439 Chinese fishing boats were caught illegally fishing in South Korean waters, up 46 percent from a year earlier. During the same period a total of 58 crew members from Chinese fishing boats caught fishing illegally were arrested.

   The Korea Coast Guard or the maritime police also vowed a powerful crackdown on illegal fishing.

   Eradicating Chinese boats' illegal fishing in our waters is a most urgent task to safeguard our fishermen and fisheries resources.

   However, it is doubtful how effective the measures will be considering the limited manpower and equipment for the crackdown.

   The government should mobilize every possible means and continue the crackdown on illegal fishing until the problem is eradicated.

   For this, the personnel and equipment set aside for the crackdown should be drastically expanded. Cooperation between related agencies should be strengthened further.

   It is also important that the government make diplomatic efforts to prevent Chinese fishermen from doing illegal fishing in South Korean waters. In this regard it is encouraging that South Korea and Japan have agreed to join diplomatic forces in responding to any breach of territorial waters or damage to fishing equipment of South Korean and Japanese fishermen by their Chinese counterparts. The agreement was made at a meeting of fishery officials from both countries in Tokyo last week, according to the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

  (END)
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