Nearly 10,000 Hainan fishing boats set off after fishing ban lifted in Aug
August is fishing season in the South China Sea. It is reported that Hainan Province alone has sent nearly 10,000 fishing boats to its deep waters in hopes of a fruitful month.
Chinese fishermen cannot be faulted for fishing within China's own territorial waters, but disputes and frictions triggered by this legal activity have become one of the reasons for rising tensions in the South China Sea.
It has become normal that fishermen from different countries scramble for the fishery resources in the South China Sea, especially given better technology and greater catches.
Heavy fishing by countries including Vietnam has stirred up continuous complaints among Chinese fishermen. But on the other hand, Chinese fishermen themselves have also sabotaged the resources in the disputed waters by overfishing in recent years.
At present, China's fishing industry is enjoying a growing power in offshore activities, with an enormous demand for various sea food like fish and shrimp.
Confronted with the predicament of fewer fish in surrounding waters, China's fishing boats have begun to push far into the deep waters of the South China Sea.
I have learned from some interviews in countries around the South China Sea that local fishermen have already been accustomed to coming across Chinese fishing boats.
In addition, Chinese fishermen often report harassment by the navies of some claimants to the South China Sea region. Some of them were even detained for catching rare species.
As of now, fishing in the South China Sea is not only an issue of disputes over sovereignty, but also a headache associated with the protection of fishery resources.
In order to address this issue, sending surveillance ships to protect our fishing boats from possible skirmishes is far from enough, because large-scale exploitation will worsen China's already tense relations with neighboring nations as well as undermine its own maritime resources.
We urgently need to protect the abundant resources in the South China Sea. This is in accordance with the interests of both China itself and surrounding countries.
Fish know nothing of territorial boundaries. Countries surrounding the South China Sea should make concerted efforts to protect fishery resources and achieve common development.
Strengthening regional cooperation and administration of maritime resources is conducive to implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. It is a specific approach to initiate collaboration in this area.
As the largest country in the region, China is responsible for initiating negotiations on establishing a cooperation mechanism in the arena of fishing.
In a bid to lay a solid foundation for potential talks, the Chinese government should put forward some specific measures to protect such resources, and take the initiative in carrying them out.
For instance, China can build up some no-fishing zones, set fishing off-seasons properly, and clarify the species and organisms that cannot be caught.
When the time is right, relevant parties in the South China Sea region can start consultations on the basic rules and regulations to protect sea life. Cooperation on fishery protection will facilitate relevant parties in seeking joint exploration while shelving disputes. It will also help put an end to the stalemate caused by territorial disputes over the South China Sea.
Currently, several claimants to the South China Sea are constantly asking for negotiations with China over the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC). The US and Japan are also taking this chance to expand their influence upon the Asia-Pacific region.
But collaboration on protecting fishery resources is far more realistic and workable than negotiation on the COC.
This does not mean that China will lose its sovereignty. Instead, it represents the best way to safeguard our sovereignty, which is embodied in specific interests of both current and future Chinese generations.
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