The Chinese government has announced that its unilaterally imposed moratorium on summer fishing has ended, triggering thousands of fishing vessels to set a course for the contested waters.
On Monday, thousands of boats reportedly set off from ports in South China, including Guangdong, Fujian and Hainan, after the fishing moratorium ended.
According to state news agency Xinhua, this year’s three-and-a-half-month summer moratorium was enforced using new technologies such as satellite positioning, video surveillance and big-data management.
Since May 1, when the moratorium started, maritime authorities in South China’s Guangdong Province reportedly undertook 5,605 patrols, seizing 1,691 illegal fishing vessels and removing 630,000 square meters of illegal fishing nets.
The Chinese government has implemented fishing bans since 1999 in the South China Sea in an effort to protect fish stocks and marine life from over-exploitation, despite other nations contesting sovereignty over the region.
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The Philippines is one of several states that object to China’s unilateral moratorium. Manila claims the fishing ban extends far beyond China’s maritime entitlements, noting that Beijing’s nine-dash-line – its claim to around 90% of the South China Sea – has been rejected by an international tribunal in The Hague.
Earlier this year, tensions between the two heightened as Manila claimed Chinese fishing flotillas had repeatedly swarmed islands and waterways within the country’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone. On May 9, the Philippines government accused China of violating its own fishing ban, as nearly 300 militia vessels moored near a reef in the Philippines-claimed municipality of Kalayaan.
The disputed waters, as well as the islands and reefs within it, are hotly contested by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Brunei.
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