Vietnam opposes China’s unilateral decision to ban fishing from 1st May to 16 August 2018. Vietnamese fishermen fear for the survival of their industry. China’s Navy has attacked Vietnamese boats and intimidated Vietnamese fishermen on several occasions in the last six months.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – China’s fishing ban in disputed South China Sea waters has increased diplomatic tensions with Vietnam and could bring the latter’s fishing industry to its knees.
China’s Ministry of Agriculture announced the unilateral ban on is website on 8 February. The latter is set to come into force on 1st May until 16 August 2018. It covers the sea that extends north from the 12 parallel North Latitude to the coasts of Fujian and Guangdong provinces.
This includes the Gulf of Tonkin; the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by Vietnam, China, and Taiwan; the Spratly Islands claimed by Vietnam, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei; and the Scarborough Shoal, claimed by the Philippines, China, and Taiwan.
Taking advantage of a certain ambiguity in international law, China claims almost 85 per cent of the South China Sea. To ensure its control of the sea’s main maritime routes (where a third of world trade transits), Beijing started to build artificial islands, with military installations and lighthouses for navigation.
Reacting to China’s fishing ban, a spokeswoman for Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry, Lê Thị Thu Hằng, said that "Vietnam objects and resolutely rejects China’s unilateral decision."
The spokeswoman stressed that Vietnam has sufficient legal grounds and historical evidence affirming its sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes, as well as its legitimate rights over its waters in line with the 1982 UNCLOS.
Lê Thị Thu Hằng reiterated that “China’s actions are not conductive to maintaining a peaceful environment, stability and cooperation between countries in the East Sea (the South China Sea), and the good development of relations between the two countries (Vietnam – China), as well as efforts by countries to negotiate on the Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) today.”
“Every year China bans fishing in the East Sea,” and this “is completely unreasonable,” said Nguyễn Văn Hiệp, a fisherman from Phước Tỉnh, a municipality in Long Điền district.
In his view, “China has no right to issue a ban on the airspace and waters of Vietnam. Of course, we have to respond to the actions. These are our jobs, our living. We are going to keep fishing in our seas. We are not going to obey this irrational law”.
He is echoed by Xuân Tiều, president of the Vietnam Fisheries Association (VFA) in Bà Rịa, Vũng Tầu province. “China has had the ban on fishing in East Sea and the South China Sea for 29 years,” he explained.
Every year, the SAME ban comes into effect from May to August, violating Vietnamese sovereignty. For this reason, the VFA has written a protest against it, but “they do not listen to”.
Meanwhile, numerous Vietnamese vessels continue to be attacked and intimidated by unidentified ships, thought to be Chinese Navy vessels.
The latest incident occurred on 23 March, when some fishermen from Qu ang Trị province fishing in the waters of the Cồn Cỏ district had their nets cut by Chinese ships.
A few days earlier, 25 miles from Cồn Cỏ Island, three Chinese "fishing boats" attacked the boat of Nguyễn Công Thành, a 46-year-old fisherman from Cửa Việt, a town in Linh district.
According to the VFA, the country’s fishing fleet once had 130,000 boats, employing a million people, and met 94 per cent of local demand for seafood.
Since then, pollution and China’s aggressive behaviour have reduced the fleet to 110,950, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without the means of earning a living.