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Apr 20, 2023 / 18:26

China’s fishing ban violates Vietnam’s sovereignty: Spokesman

Beijing’s unilateral fishing ban covers areas including Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracels).

Vietnam has protested China’s illegal fishing ban in the South China Sea.

“The so-called fishing ban infringes upon Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago, its sovereignty and jurisdiction over the seas and exclusive economic zones stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982,” said Doan Khac Viet, Deputy Spokesman of Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  Doan Khac Viet, Deputy Spokesman of Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the press conference on April 10. Photo: MOFA 

He said at the press conference in Hanoi today [April 20] that the ban is unilaterally issued by China.

Last week, Beijing announced a ban on fishing in four seas around China namely the South China Sea (called the East Sea by Vietnam), the East China Sea, the Bohai, and the Huanghai from May 1 to August 16.

The areas covered in the ban include Vietnam’s Hoang Sa which was seized by China.

China issued the annual fishing ban and said it would fine and arrest foreign fishermen in the waters it claims.

Vietnam requested China to respect its sovereignty over Hoang Sa, its rights and jurisdiction over these areas, and to refrain from escalating the situation and help maintain peace and stability in the East Sea, Doan Khac Viet said.

Local media quoted Carl Thayer, Emeritus Professor at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Canberra, as saying that Vietnam is well within its international rights not only to protest China’s annual fishing ban but to ignore it altogether. 

Prof. Thayer said China first unilaterally imposed an annual ban on fishing in 1999. The ban has been renewed every year since then. It said the purpose of the ban was to allow fish stocks to regenerate during the spawning season because fish stocks in the South China Sea were seriously depleted due to overfishing.

According to Prof. Thayer, Chinese vessels have rammed and on occasion capsized or sunk foreign fishing vessels. Chinese officials routinely seize the fish catch, radios, navigation devices, tools, and other possessions of foreign fishing vessels. Sometimes, Chinese officials arrest Vietnamese fishermen and impose a fine (bribe) for their release. Chinese officials have also damaged fishing boats and polluted their fuel, making them unsafe.

He said Chinese maritime law enforcement authorities have violated numerous international laws such as COLREGS (Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea and SOLAS (Convention on Safety of Life at Sea) in their enforcement efforts.

Prof. Thayer said China’s actions in imposing an annual unilateral fishing ban run counter to the spirit of its 2018 proposal for the draft Code of Conduct.

He argued that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea enjoins parties to enter into an arrangement of a “practical nature” if they cannot resolve disputes over maritime delimitation. In other words, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, and other concerned states should have entered into an agreement – without prejudice to their sovereignty claims – to cooperate in protecting the marine environment including depleted fish stocks.