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Vietnam rejects China’s unilateral ban on fishing in South China Sea

Updated at Sunday, 05 May 2019, 15:25
The Hanoitimes - China`s fishing moratorium violates Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago, contradicts the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Vietnam strongly protests and absolutely rejects the ban on fishing in the South China which China has unilaterally imposed, local media quoted Spokeswoman of Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Le Thi Thu Hang. 
 
A Vietnamese fishing boat operates in waters under Vietnam's sovereignty. Photo by VnExpress/Tri Tin
China's proclaimed U-shaped line in South China Sea is widely protested
The protest was made after the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture declared on May 1 to prohibit fishing in three months and a half in the sea which covers Vietnamese territorial waters. 

The geographical scope encompasses Bohai Sea, Yellow Sea, East China Sea and South China Sea to the 12th degrees North latitude (including the Gulf of Tonkin). 

The ban would be applied for both Chinese and foreign fishermen and Beijing would deploy vessels patrolling twice or three times a day to fine violators. 

Hang said China’s fishing moratorium violates Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago, contradicts the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which accords all the countries sovereign rights and jurisdiction over their Exclusive Economic Zones, go against the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) between the ASEAN members and China, and compete the Vietnam-China agreement on solving maritime issues. 

Nguyen Thai Giang and Tran Quang Chau, researchers at the East Sea Institute, Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam (DAV) pointed out that China’s annual fishing ban is a threat to stability and the rule-based order in the region for some following reasons.

Firstly, China’s fishing ban violates Vietnam’s sovereignty. Vietnam has for centuries administrated its control over the Paracels based on its well-founded legal and historical evidence. Meanwhile, China unilaterally issued the moratorium applied for the area around the Paracels, infringing Vietnam’s sovereignty over this archipelago and maritime entitlements stipulated by UNCLOS.

Secondly, China’s moratorium also violates the UNCLOS 1982. Under Article 57 of the UNCLOS, a coastal state is entitled to 200 nautical miles of Exclusive Economic Zone measured from its baseline. Article 56 of UNCLOS clearly states that in the exclusive economic zone, a coastal state has “sovereign rights” to explore, exploit and manage the natural resources of the living and non-living resources and the “jurisdiction” to govern the “protection and preservation of the marine environment”. 

China’s fishing moratorium applied in the South China Sea to 12th degree North latitude, which stretches beyond 200 nautical miles of its coast and up to 600 miles. It means that much of this area is beyond China’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction and violates Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone. 

Only Vietnam has the mandate under the UNCLOS to issue such kind of moratorium to protect and preserve the fishing resources in its own Exclusive Economic Zone.

Thirdly, China’s fishing moratorium violates the Arbitral Award released on July 12, 2016 relating to the case between the Philippines and China over the South China Sea disputes. The fishing ban which covers Filipino Exclusive Economic Zone disrespects the Arbitral Award.  

Fourthly, The ban violates the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and undermines the progress in the making of a Code of Conduct (COC). 

ASEAN and China signed the DOC in November 2002, in which all parties pledged to keep the status quo and not to conduct activities that may complicate the ongoing disputes.

The fishing moratorium creates new disagreements and adds complexity to the ongoing disputes in the South China Sea at a time when ASEAN and China are making efforts to achieve a framework for COC.

Taking advantage of a certain ambiguity in international law, China claims almost 85% 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, the Asianews has reported.

The ban would leave hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Filipino people who depend on fishing jobless.
Linh Pham
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