Chinese fishing boats violate Vietnam waters; gov't mulls patrol boats

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 Fishing boats in the central province of Phu Yen. Local fishermen are currently troubled by Chinese boats' increasing violation of their fishing grounds.

Vietnam is considering establishing fishery patrol teams to protect Vietnamese fishermen and boats within Vietnam's territorial waters, as fishermen complained that Chinese boats are violating local fishing grounds.

Under a proposal pending the government' approval, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development would need nearly VND2.1 trillion (US$102.14 million) for building ten government fishery patrol boats and many others at 28 coastal provinces.

The ministry said the violations of marine laws have increased recently, stressing that foreign boats are illegally entering Vietnam's territorial waters more to catch seafood with hundreds of boats a day.

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Chu Tien Vinh, a ministry's senior fishery official, said Chinese fishing boats have recently "violated Vietnamese waters, even threatened the safety of Vietnamese fishermen. This is unacceptable."

Meanwhile, the arrests of Vietnamese fishermen by other countries are also on increase lately, the ministry added.

In fact, fishermen and officials alike in the central province of Phu Yen and Quang Ngai are voicing their concerns that more Chinese boats have illegally entered the country's territorial waters and taken up local fishing grounds.

"Over the past ten days, fishermen reported that every day between 120 and 150 fishing boats of China were operated within waters from Da Nang City to the Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelago.

Col. NGUYEN TRONG HUYEN
Commander of Border Guards' Headquarters in Phu Yen Province

Colonel Nguyen Trong Huyen, commander of Border Guards' Headquarters in Phu Yen Province, said over the past ten days fishermen reported that every day between 120 and 150 fishing boats of China were operated within waters from Da Nang City to the Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelago.

Sometimes there were up to over 200 Chinese boats fishing in Vietnam's waters, he stressed.

"Previously Chinese boats have violated our waters, but this was the first time there were so many boats," Huyen said.

Le Van Tuan, a fisherman from Tuy Hoa Town, Phu Yen Province, said when he saw Chinese boats fishing in Vietnam's water, his crew asked the Chinese to leave "but they refused to do so."

"Because their boats were bigger than ours, we did not dare to come near, so we had to see them continue fishing" Tuan said.

According to Colonel Huyen, most of the Chinese boats have bigger capacity and are protected by marine surveillance ships, so Vietnamese fishermen have many difficulties protecting their fishing grounds.

Nguyen Ngoc Ry, an official from Phu Yen's Border Guards division, also said local fishermen try to avoid encounters with Chinese boats partly because their boats are small. Not to mention that they had put lots of money into the boats.

"In encounters, our fishermen will be in disadvantage," Ry said.

Losing fishing grounds

According to Ry, Phu Yen's fishermen have held fishing teams with each of between five and ten boats to guarantee their safety, but it haven't made any change in encounters with Chinese boats.

"When seeing Chinese boats violating their fishing grounds, our fishermen would ask them to leave, but they would keep staying and even threaten Vietnamese with weapons," he said.

In many cases when the Chinese boats were outnumbered, they would call for more boats, and "within just 15-20 minutes, tens of Chinese boats would come to gather, so our fishermen couldn't help but leave," Ry said.

With increasing violations from Chinese boats, hundreds of boats in Tuy Hoa Town are still at home although Phu Yen is currently in the season of tuna catching, Ry said.

"China issued a fishing ban targeting Vietnam's territorial waters, but its fishermen came to fish in Vietnam's waters. It's just too illogical and bullying.

LE VAN TUAN
a fisherman from Tuy Hoa town

Oil prices are increasing, while fishing grounds are decreasing, leading to low outputs, so many fishermen have chosen to stay home to avoid losses, he explained.

"Many fishermen here said they would soon lose their tuna fishing grounds due to violations of Chinese fishermen," Ry said.

Fishermen are outraged as well, according to Ry.

"China issued a fishing ban targeting Vietnam's territorial waters, but its fishermen came to fish in Vietnam's waters. It's just too illogical and bullying," Le Van Tuan, a fisherman from Tuy Hoa town, said.

Nguyen Viet Thang, Chairman of the Vietnam Fishery Association, said the association protests against Chinese fishing boats' operation in Vietnamese waters.

"China recently imposed a fishing ban in the East Sea, which includes areas within Vietnamese territorial waters, and now their boats are rushing to fish in the Vietnamese waters. These are both violating Vietnam's sovereignty and damaging our country's fishery resources and our fishermen's benefits," Thang said.

Early this month Hainan province's Haikou municipal government issued a summer-long ban on areas that are under Vietnam's sovereign rule.

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