China is preventing fishing in disputed waters. The area subject to the ban extends from 12 degrees north latitude to China’s southern provinces of Fujian and Guangdong. Meanwhile, Vietnamese fishing boats continue to be attacked and intimidated.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Beijing's ban on fishing in the disputed waters of the South China Sea is exacerbating diplomatic tensions with Hanoi and threatens to bring the Vietnamese fishing industry to its knees.
Despite Vietnam’s opposition to the measure, China has no intention to back down. As in the past, the ban is in force this year between 1t May and 16 August.
Since China is also hindering oil and gas fields exploration, the harm caused by Beijing's unilateral ban extends to the energy sector as well.
The area subject to the ban runs from 12 degrees north latitude to the coast of the southern Chinese provinces of Fujian and Guangdong.
In all, this includes the Gulf of Tonkin, between Vietnam and China; the Paracel Islands, claimed by Vietnam, China and Taiwan; the Spratly Islands, claimed by Vietnam, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei; and the Scarborough Shoal, a rocky area claimed by Philippines, China and Taiwan.
Taking advantage of some ambiguities of international law, Beijing claims a huge part of the sea (almost 85 per cent).
To ensure control of the sea’s main routes (more than a third of the global market), Beijing has built of seven artificial islands, with military installations and lighthouses for navigation.
However, “Viet Nam has full legal basis and historical evidence to assert sovereignty over the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands, as well as legal rights to Vietnam’s maritime areas that are defined and suitable with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982,” said Lê Thị Thu Hằng, spokesman for Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
For Hanoi, steps taken to preserve “biological resources”, which Beijing uses to justify its ban, should be carried out in accordance with 1982 UN Convention.
Instead, “Every year, hundreds of China’s para-military fishing vessels have seriously damaged or destroyed at least 28 big reefs in the Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands belonging to Vietnam,” this according to the Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which has published scientific studies in 2018 on the matter.
“Chinese fishing vessels have used many destructive fishing methods such as explosives, poison, rake nets, and giant ‘small eyed-nets’ to catch all kinds of fish, even little fish”.
On 11 June, the Viet Nam’s Fisheries Association called on the authorities to strongly oppose China and take drastic measures to prevent the looting of Vietnam’s sea, protect the property and safety of Vietnamese fishermen and uphold national sovereignty.
Indeed, Vietnamese fishing boats continue to be attacked and intimidated by Tầu Lạ boats, ‘strange ships’ that belong to the Chinese Navy.
In March, the fishing boat of Captain Nguyễn Tấn Sơn, from Quảng Nam province, was attacked by a Chinese vessel.
The boat was anchored in the waters off Tri Tôn, one of the Paracel islands, when it was approached by a canoe put into the water by a Chinese vessel. Men armed with electric guns and batons boarded the boat. Once on the bridge, they beat the captain.
One of the five Vietnamese fishermen recalls that "The Chinese used knives to cut our nets, they destroyed the equipment and threw the food into the sea."
Some Vietnamese fishing experts told Vietnamese media that "so far more than 4,000 Vietnamese vessels have been rammed or hit by many types of Chinese ships".
Many Vietnamese fishing boats have been destroyed or damaged. But the most inhumane thing is that in the last few years more than 2,300 Vietnamese fishermen have been killed. There are cases in which they died under machine-gun fire or lost at sea.