Posts Tagged ‘fish’

Recent Developments Surrounding the South China Sea

August 7, 2017

BEIJING — A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly look at the latest developments in the South China Sea, the location of several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.

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CHINESE FM SAYS TALKS MAY START THIS YEAR ON CODE OF CONDUCT

China’s foreign minister said talks on a long-sought code of conduct in the South China Sea that were first mooted in 2002 may finally start this year if “outside parties” don’t cause a major disruption.

Chinese and ASEAN foreign ministers approved a negotiating framework for a code of conduct during a meeting at the weekend in the Philippines. The idea is to draw up an outline of the rules and responsibilities for the countries to prevent clashes from erupting in the contested waters. However, the initial roadmap doesn’t say whether the code of conduct will be legally binding or enforceable.

China had long been perceived as delaying negotiations with ASEAN so it can undertake and complete construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea without being restricted by any maritime code.

Wang said the start of talks may be announced by the heads of state of China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations at their annual summit in the Philippines in November if Beijing’s conditions are met. He said those conditions include a “stable situation” in the South China Sea and non-interference by “outside parties,” an apparent reference to the United States. Beijing frequently accuses the U.S. of meddling in what it says is an Asian dispute that should be resolved only by the countries involved.

Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton said countries locked in the sea disputes should “stop improving or expanding or militarizing any of their outposts.”

Wang’s mention of the vague conditions can allow China to delay or halt the planned talks for any reason. Differing expectations between Beijing and ASEAN of what the code of conduct should look like also likely mean the negotiations will be anything but straightforward.

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ASEAN NATIONS CRITICIZE CHINA’S LAND RECLAMATIONS

ASEAN foreign ministers defied China’s steadfast stance and overcame their own disagreements to issue a joint statement criticizing Beijing’s land reclamation and military fortifications in the South China Sea.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has tried to fortify its foothold in recent years by transforming reefs into island outposts, some with runways and radars and — more recently — weapons systems.

The U.S. and ASEAN claimants to the waters and islands oppose the work. They are wary of restrictions on ship movements in a key waterway for world trade which boasts rich fishing grounds and a potential wealth of undersea oil, gas and mineral deposits.

These tensions divide ASEAN. Some ASEAN nations want to stand firmly together against Beijing, while others who depend heavily on China for trade and investment are wary about possible retaliation.

ASEAN foreign ministers failed to promptly issue a joint communique after their annual gathering Saturday due to a disagreement over whether to include criticism, even indirectly, of China’s activities in the contested territories.

Then, in a surprise move late Sunday, they indirectly criticized Beijing’s land reclamation and military fortifications in the disputed waters.

They also in their 46-page statement referred vaguely to an international arbitration ruling last year that invalidated China’s historical claims to virtually all the strategic waterway.

The regional grouping decides by consensus, and last year Cambodia and Laos, who receive massive aid from China, blocked any mention of the arbitration ruling in the final text.

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US, CHINESE, JAPANESE NAVIES END SEARCH FOR MISSING US SAILOR

The U.S., Chinese and Japanese navies ended a three-day search for a missing sailor who was believed to have gone overboard in the South China Sea.

Vessels and aircraft, including two Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy frigates and aircraft from two Japan Maritime Self-Defense ships, had combed roughly 10,000 square miles (30,000 square kilometers) of the sea west of the Philippines by Friday. The U.S. Navy said the joint search had demonstrated “the common bond shared by all mariners to render assistance at sea.”

The sailor was from the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem, based in Yokosuka, Japan. He was reported missing on Aug. 1.

China accused the U.S. in July of trespassing in its waters when the Stethem sailed within 12 nautical miles (32 kilometers) of Triton Island in the Paracel Group.

The operation was aimed at affirming the right to passage and challenging what the U.S. considers China’s excessive territorial claims in the area. China sent ships to intercept the destroyer.

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XI SAYS CHINA WON’T ALLOW THE LOSS OF “ANY PIECE” OF ITS TERRITORY

Chinese President Xi Jinping says China will have the “confidence to conquer all forms of invasion” and won’t allow the loss of “any piece” of its land to outsiders.

His words were contained in a speech in Beijing marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army.

It strikes a similar note to other tough talk by Xi about China’s territorial disputes with its neighbors, including in the South China Sea.

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Related:

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Drama at ASEAN: Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (at left in blue) is the only one brave enough to challenge China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. At right, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tries to write language that Vietnam can agree to. POOL photo

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North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, poses with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for a photo prior to their bilateral meeting in the sideline of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its Dialogue Partners. Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, south Manila, Philippines. Bolstered by new U.N. sanctions, the United States and North Korea’s neighbors are joining in a fresh attempt to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs, in a global campaign cheered on by U.S. President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

A Look at What Is Ahead Now That Brexit Talks Have Started

June 19, 2017

BRUSSELS — The talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union finally started Monday when EU negotiator Michel Barnier said “Welcome David” to his counterpart, David Davis, and led him toward a huge oval table at the European Commission headquarters.

As the negotiations kick off, here’s a look at some of the major issues the sides face.

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DIVORCE FIRST

They will first have to unravel the British from the EU, which will be challenging to say the least. That will involve everything from deciding what waters each side can fish in to how nuclear agreements should be renegotiated. Only when there is “sufficient progress” does the EU want to look at creating a new relationship with Britain on things like trade and migration. Britain hopes the two themes — divorce terms and future relationship — can be discussed in parallel.

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WHAT DIVORCE ISSUES GET TACKLED FIRST?

While Britain has struggled to agree on and present a coherent list of demands, the 27 EU nations have had one message all along — in the words of Barnier on Monday: “We must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit.” It means clarifying the fate of EU citizens in Britain and vice versa, how to manage the border between Ireland and the U.K., and how much Britain will pay.

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MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

The EU says Britain can’t leave without settling its bill, paying up for all its commitments that are still ongoing, including projects that might reach into the next decade, as well as the U.K.’s share of EU staff pensions. EU officials have put the figure at around 50 billion euros ($63 billion) while other estimates by think tanks and in the media go as high as twice that amount. As in any divorce, count on both sides to be picky in splitting the goods and dues.

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WHAT ARE THE RED LINES?

The EU says it will not compromise on its core “four freedoms”: free movement of goods, capital, services and workers. Britain insists that it must regain the right to control immigration and end free movement from other EU countries into Britain. May says Britain will leave the EU’s single market in goods and services and its tariff-free customs union, but nonetheless, somehow, wants “frictionless” free trade.

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DEAL OR NO DEAL?

Even though May triggered the two-year process on March 29, negotiators will have to get a full agreement much faster than March 2019. EU nations and the European Parliament will have to approve any future deal and that can take months. EU officials have therefore put the realistic deadline at October — and at the latest November — of 2018. If no deal is struck by then, the sides may have to create a transitional deal, possibly prolonging some of the current relationship.

If Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal, that would create huge uncertainties for citizens and businesses as well as issues like global security. How bad that would be in reality is anyone’s guess.

Philippine City Bordering Disputed Sea Finding Fewer Fish, More Foreign Vessels

April 5, 2017

Voice of America

April 04, 2017 6:26 AM
By Ralph Jennings
FILE - In this May 7, 2013 photo, a fishing boat returns to their village in the coastal town of Masinloc, Zambales province, northwestern Philippines.

FILE – In this May 7, 2013 photo, a fishing boat returns to their village in the coastal town of Masinloc, Zambales province, northwestern Philippines.

Philippine fishermen along the front lines of a bitterly contested tract of the South China Sea say fishing stocks are declining partly because of unstoppable intrusions from Chinese, Taiwanese and Vietnamese competitors.
The number of fish has fallen about 50 percent since 2010 off the coast of Masinloc, the Philippine city closest to Scarborough Shoal, contested by Manila and Beijing since 2012, according to Franklin Cattigay, the local Philippine Coast Guard commander.Map showing location of Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea

Map showing location of Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea

The problems in an already poor archipelago dependent largely on the sea may add pressure on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to cement a new friendship with China, following Beijing’s pledge of $24 billion in aid and investment in October, or to invite the U.S. navy back to continue joint coastal patrols against foreign vessels.

China effectively controls access to the 150-square-kilometer shoal, a prime fishing ground 198 kilometers away from Masinloc.


Boats from China, Taiwan and Vietnam use “illegal” techniques such as explosives and bright nighttime lights to draw fish said Cattigay .

“Vessels from China are roaming there and they are not authorizing the Philippines to go there,” he said as he gestured into the South China Sea just west of his outdoor workspace next to the major Masinloc fish market. “Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, they are all there.

“Nowadays fish is not [like] before, it’s fairly limited because of so many people using illegal fishing, most especially the other countries using super lights,” he said.

Declining stocks plus pressure from China have prompted many of city’s roughly 3,000 registered fishermen to fan out along the Philippine coast or try to make it on catches of smaller fish. Nationwide, millions of people live off the sea.

Just three 40-person Philippine vessels from Masinloc, a city of 49,000 people, regularly trawl around Scarborough Shoal, said a city government fisheries staff person who did not want to be identified. The city doesn’t tell them to stay away from Scarborough Shoal but a lot avoid it anyway because of the risks, he said.

China has two patrol boats at the shoal and bars Filipinos from entry, fishermen say. China began occupying Scarborough Shoal, a rocky outcropping visible above the waves, in 2012 after a tense standoff with the Philippines that soured relations until Duterte took office in June.

China claims more than 90 percent of the wider South China Sea. Some of that claim clashes with a Philippine exclusive economic zone from Masinloc’s Luzon Island south to Palawan.

Taiwan also calls the whole 3.5 million-square-kilometer resource-rich sea its own. Vietnam has a smaller claim, but like China has landfilled some of the sea’s islets near fisheries and undersea fossil fuel exploration sites.

South China Sea Territorial Claims

South China Sea Territorial Claims

Vietnamese fishing boats have been seen near the Philippine coast about 48 km offshore, the city staff person said.

“Two hours into the sea are Vietnamese, five boats finding octopus and fish, two hours, there,” said Roy Sevilla, 34, a Masinloc fisherman of 20 years as he pointed northwest from his boat moorage under a dilapidated pier.

Other people along the clear waters and mangrove tree-lined coasts of Masinloc work in groups to gut, dry and sell fish just a few inches long rather than prizes such as tuna or lapu lapu. On Tuesday, vendors at the public market were selling mainly small squid and eels.

Fishing closer to the coast of the city northwest of Manila fetches just three tons of fish per trip, down from the 10 to 15 tons he would expect from Scarborough Shoal, veteran fisherman Butch Ortega said.

“We have the Chinese patrol, so we cannot go,” said Ortega as he stood knee deep in the water tending to a boat.

Duterte’s engagement with China, he believes, has not covered access to Scarborough.

Last month the president said his country had no way of fighting China if it went ahead with plans reported by Chinese media to build a monitoring station on the shoal. He also has not moved on a proposal announced last year to declare the shoal a marine sanctuary.

From May through August, Beijing is scheduled to declare a fishing moratorium over much of the sea. Masinloc locals say they’re unlikely to observe it and that China does not now turn their boats away from disputed tracts outside the shoal.

But Chinese naval, coast guard and fishing vessels may overwhelm the sea in ways that Southeast Asian claimants cannot “hope to match,” said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of American think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.

FILE - Chinese Coast Guard members approach Filipino fishermen as they confront each other off Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, also called the West Philippine Sea, Sept. 23, 2015.

FILE – Chinese Coast Guard members approach Filipino fishermen as they confront each other off Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, also called the West Philippine Sea, Sept. 23, 2015.

The Philippines, the island of Borneo and the Natuna Islands of Indonesia would feel Chinese enforcement of the moratorium, Poling said. Malaysia and Brunei compete with China for rights to tracts of the sea north of Borneo.

“They’ll be swamping waters off the coast of Borneo and off the Natunas and then they’ll also presumably be pushing the Philippines out of places like the Scarborough Shoal,” he said. “What the Chinese want here is for the Southeast Asians to just stop resisting, just accept the new world order in Asia centered around China and China’s historic rights.”

An association of fishing boats from Zambales province, including Masinloc, have drafted a resolution to Duterte, the coast guard commander said. They want the president to let U.S. naval vessels resume helping the Philippines, which is militarily weaker than China, patrol the coastlines.

The coast guard alone lacks resources to patrol for foreign boats, he said, advocating more help from Washington. Filipino fisherman also use illegal techniques to catch fish, he added.

A stronger friendship with China may generate more aid and investment for the Philippines, analysts in Manila say, but may ultimately anger Filipinos who want their leader to safeguard national territory.

https://www.voanews.com/a/philippine-city-bordering-disputed-sea-finding-fewer-fish/3795305.html

Related:

 (Philippine Star)

 — From March 25, 2017 with links to other related articles

 

 (National Geographic on the South China Sea)

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China’s Tian Jing Hao – Cutter suction dredger — Used to destroy South China Sea coral reefs to provide dredge material for new man made- islands — an environmental disaster

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The End of an era?  Fishermen work to unload a net full of anchovies during a fishing expedition in the Pacific Ocean. Photo AP

Anger burns on Vietnam’s poisoned coast a year after spill — “The big fish are all dead” — Vietnam’s worst environmental disaster

April 4, 2017

Reuters

An employee poses with what he says are contaminated decomposed shrimps at a frozen food storage facility in Vietnam’s central Ha Tinh province April 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

“The big fish are all dead,” complained 50 year-old Mai Xuan Hoa, picking small fish from a net as he tried to rebuild his livelihood a year after Vietnam’s worst environmental disaster.

Sea life began washing up on April 6, 2016 near a steel plant being developed by Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Corp. Within weeks, more than 200 km (125 miles) of coast had been sullied by the accidental release of chemicals including cyanide, phenols and iron hydroxide.

Along the coast, the recovery is slow and anger endures.

“Where we caught 10 fish in the past, now we will only catch one or two,” Hoa said.

Locals says thousands of fishermen have simply given up and gone to look for work elsewhere. Tourists are wary of beaches that have lost their pristine reputation and businesses are struggling.

But the wider impact could be even greater after protests over the spill encouraged a wave of activism that has pushed environmental issues up the agenda for a communist government that now promises greater scrutiny of investments.

“First, people were angry with Formosa for polluting Vietnam’s environment,” said priest and activist Dang Huu Nam.

“Now, they are angry with the unclear responses and solutions of some provincial authorities over fixing the disaster.”

More than 40,000 jobs were directly affected in four provinces dependent on fishing and tourism. Across the country, a quarter of a million workers felt the impact, according to the labor ministry.

After months of rallies and an outpouring of anger not seen in four decades of Communist Party rule, Formosa agreed to pay $500 million in compensation.

The Hanoi government and the provinces have now declared the sea clean and the seafood safe. But while no official figures are available, fishermen say fish stocks have yet to recover.

CATCHES DOWN

On a beach in Ha Tinh province, Hoa and two other fishermen’s catch for the day was barely enough to fill a bucket. Compensation payments of 17.4 million dong ($765) would not last them long, they said.

Despite the reduced supply, merchants say fish prices are now a quarter of what they were because of fears of continued contamination.

Many fishermen have simply abandoned their boats.

Some 3,000 boats were affected in Quang Tri province alone, said Nguyen Truong Khoa, deputy director of the local environment department in the province, south of Ha Tinh.

“It will take a long time to recover completely,” he said.

Tourists are also still wary of this stretch of coast.

Once bustling, the Ky Hoa seafood restaurant on the central beach of Cua Viet is empty. Dust settles on chairs and tables.

“It’s like the place is dying,” said owner Mai Ngoc Ky.

The central government says half the compensation money has been paid out, but many complain about the wait.

“If things continue like this we will soon be bankrupt,” said seafood trader Nguyen Viet Long.

Vietnam’s environment ministry did not respond to a written request for comment on the aftermath of the disaster and on when Formosa would be allowed to start operations.

Neither Ha Tinh province nor Formosa gave Reuters permission to visit the $11 billion plant.

PLANS TO RESTART

Eleven officials have been named and shamed over the spill.

The government says the steel plant has now addressed 51 out of 53 violations identified in an investigation into the accident, but it will only restart when it can do so safely.

Formosa hopes to get approval for trial runs soon, with the aim of starting commercial steel production by the end of the year, nearly a year behind schedule.

“We remember the lessons we’ve learned, and we’re moving forward,” said Chang Fu-ning, an executive vice president of the company.

Formosa has promised to invest another $350 million at the mill, including in a more modern ‘dry’ coking system which does not use water as a coolant but is more expensive.

Formosa’s use of the ‘wet’ coking system, which generates more waste, was highlighted as one of the failures in the government report. The company said it was still using the dirtier process, but that it had until 2019 to switch.

Formosa wants to make steel mill the biggest of its kind in Southeast Asia, exactly the sort of investment the government seeks so as to maintain annual growth rates of over 6 percent.

But the activist movement roused by the spill has made Vietnamese – and the government – more attuned to environmental risks.

In February, the government said it would not grant licenses to any projects with a high pollution risk. Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung asked the environment ministry to revise rules and to intensify inspection and supervision of projects at the investment and construction stage.

When people in southern Vietnam reported a bad smell and dust from a new mill being started by Hong Kong-listed Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing Ltd last month, the Hau Giang province was quick to investigate.

The company has since promised measures to reduce pollution.

“People are worried about not only their future but also their children’s future. They will continue to fight until their rights are satisfied and protected,” said activist Nam.

(This story has been refiled to fix typo in second paragraph)

(Reporting by Hanoi bureau; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

South China Sea: One of the World’s Biggest Fisheries Is on the Verge of Collapse

March 26, 2017

South China Sea’s most important resource – its fish – is disappearing

Major disputes in the South China Sea are putting critical habitat—and the food supply of millions—at risk.

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Dock workers use cranes to off-load frozen tuna from a Chinese-owned cargo vessel at the General Santos Fish Port, in the Philippines. Tuna stocks in the South China Sea have plummeted in recent years because of overfishing. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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By Rachael Bale
National Geographic
PUBLISHED AUGUST 29, 2016

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PUERTO PRINCESA, PHILIPPINES — Years ago Christopher Tubo caught a 660-pound blue marlin in the South China Sea. The fishing was good there, he says. Tuna fishermen would come home from a trip with dozens of the high-value fish as well as a good haul of other species.

“Here there’s none of that,” he says, looking toward the Sulu Sea, the Philippine sea where he’s been fishing for the past four years. His two boats, traditional Filipino outriggers called bancas, float in the shallow water nearby, new coats of white paint drying in the sun.

Tubo is sitting on a wooden bench in front of his home, which perches on stilts above the bay. One of his four kids wraps an arm around his leg. Worn T-shirts and shorts flutter on clotheslines behind them.

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A worker carries a line-caught yellowfin tuna at the General Santos Fish Port, which is known as the “tuna capital of the Philippines.” The South China Sea, through which tuna migrate, produces more fish than almost anywhere else, but it has been severely overfished and is nearing collapse. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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Glancing over at his wife, Leah, and the other children, he says, “It’s just chance, whether or not we can feed our families now.”

Tubo lives in Puerto Princesa, a city of 255,000 on Palawan, a long finger of an island that faces the Sulu Sea and the Philippine archipelago to the east and the contested South China Sea to the west. He’s one of the nearly 320,000 fishermen in the Philippines who have traditionally made their livelihoods from the South China Sea—and one of a growing number who are now fishing in other waters because of increasing Chinese interference. Beginning around 2012, China adopted a more assertive posture in the sea’s long-running territorial dispute, building military installations on contested islands and increasingly using its coast guard to intimidate fishermen from other countries.

It was after a Chinese coast guard vessel attacked a friend’s fishing boat with water cannons that Christopher Tubo stopped fishing the South China Sea.

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Filipino fishermen aboard the Ninay haul in sardines and scad in national waters near the South China Sea. The territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea have increased competition for dwindling fish stocks of all species.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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“One minute you’ll see an airplane, the next thing there’s a naval boat,” he says, describing how the Chinese attempt to keep fishermen from other countries out of the disputed area. “If we kept going over there, maybe we won’t be able to go home to our families.”

“As they see it, it’s theirs now, and Filipinos are forbidden,” says Henry Tesorio, an elected councilor for a fishing village in Puerto Princesa.

Vietnamese fishermen could say the same thing. Some 200 Vietnamese from the island of Ly Son, 15 miles (24 kilometers) off the mainland, reported being attacked by Chinese boats in 2015, according to local Vietnamese government officials.

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The lights on the Melissa attract fish toward the boat and up to the surface. A storm later forced the boat to return to Quezon, a fishing village on the island of Palawan, in the Philippines. Fishermen from the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and elsewhere all fish the South China Sea.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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Tubo’s decision not to fish in the South China Sea speaks to the rising tensions in the region, which are causing fierce competition for natural resources. Encompassing 1.4 million square miles (3.7 million square kilometers), the South China Sea is of critical economic, military, and environmental importance: $5.3 trillion in international trade plies its waters annually; in terms of biodiversity, it is thought of as the marine equivalent of the Amazon rain forest; and its fish provide food and jobs for millions in the 10 countries and territories that surround it.

Of those, seven—China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia—have competing claims to the sea’s waters and resources. So it’s understandable why all eyes have been focused on the political and military wrangling. If war broke out over these claims, it would pit two superpowers, China and the United States—a longtime Philippine ally and guarantor of freedom of navigation in the Pacific Ocean—against each other.

South China Sea map. Credit Center for Strategic and International Studies

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But another less publicized, also potentially disastrous, threat looms in the South China Sea: overfishing. This is one of the world’s most important fisheries, employing more than 3.7 million people and bringing in billions of dollars every year. But after decades of free-for-all fishing, dwindling stocks now threaten both the food security and economic growth of the rapidly developing nations that draw on them.

China argues that it has a right to almost the entire South China Sea because it says it has historically exercised jurisdiction in that area, which China delineates on maps with a U-shaped “nine-dash” line (see map). Every other disputant in the South China Sea, including the Philippines, bases its maritime claims on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an international agreement that defines maritime zones.

Opposing Beijing’s expansionist claims, in 2013 the Philippines brought a case against China before an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration—a forum for settling international disputes—in The Hague, Netherlands. China refused to participate. On July 12, the tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines on almost all its claims, declaring that China forfeited the possibility of any historically based rights when it ratified the UN convention in 1996. China has vowed to ignore the ruling.

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Crew members take shelter from a storm aboard the Ninay. Filipino fishermen have reported increasing interference from Chinese coast guard vessels in the South China Sea. China claims most of the South China Sea for itself.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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Competition for fish has exacerbated the dispute, and the dispute has intensified competition among fishermen, further depleting fish. Some parts of the South China Sea have less than a tenth of the stocks they had five decades ago. And high-value fish such as tuna and grouper are becoming scarcer.

“What we’re looking at is potentially one of the world’s worst fisheries collapses ever,” says John McManus, a marine biologist at the Rosenstiel School at the University of Miami who studies the region’s reefs.

.“We’re talking hundreds and hundreds of species that will collapse, and they’ll collapse relatively quickly, one after another.”

MONICA SERRANO, NG STAFF
SOURCES: COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS; U.S. ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION;
OCEANASIA 2015, REPORTED AND ESTIMATED UNREPORTED CATCHES; RANDALL AND LIM, 2000; CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES

Fishermen on the Front Lines

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As coastal waters are depleted, fishermen have been forced to venture farther offshore and into disputed waters to make a living. China has seized this as an opportunity to bolster its claims by aggressively supporting its fishermen. Beijing has consolidated the coast guard, militarized fishing fleets, and begun offering subsidies for bigger and better boats, water, and fuel. There’s even a special subsidy specifically for fishermen to fish in the contested Spratly Islands, more than 500 miles (800 kilometers) to the south.

“The only reason that smaller [Chinese] fishermen go out to the Spratlys is because they’re paid to do so,” says Gregory Poling, the director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank, the Center for Strategic Studies. This extra pressure has sped up the depletion of fish stocks, he says.

The Chinese have also been building artificial islands atop reefs in the Spratlys to support military installations there. “Possession is nine-tenths of the law,” says Zachary Abuza, an expert on Southeast Asian politics and maritime security at the National War College, in Washington, D.C. “China is trying to enforce its sovereignty through the construction of these islands and by denying other countries access to natural resources.”

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A couple sits outside a home built over the water in Quezon, where most people have family members who work as fishermen. Overfishing has put the livelihoods of many Filipinos at risk. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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Eugenio Bito-onon, Jr.—until recently the mayor of the Kalayaan municipality, which includes islands in the Spratlys—is an outspoken advocate for the Philippines’ claims. Bito-onon and I met in the island’s cramped satellite office in Puerto Princesa, where he had a gigantic map of the South China Sea marked up with his own handwritten labels and colored dots showing which countries claim which features.

He pulls up Google Earth on his laptop and finds Thitu, an island in the Spratlys known locally as Pag-asa, where about 200 Filipinos, including a small number of troops, live part-time, their presence demonstrating the Philippines’ claim to the island. Rice, clothing, soap, and other necessities must be brought in by boat or airlift, and two government-owned generators are the only source of electricity. Bito-onon points out just how close Chinese-claimed Subi Reef is to Thitu. So close, he says, that on a clear day residents can see it on the horizon.

Even closer, though, are Chinese fishing boats, which he says have fished the reefs empty. “For the past three years, [the Chinese] never leave,” Bito-onon says from behind his laptop, now displaying satellite imagery of reefs around Thitu. “Chinese fishing boats come and go, replacing each other,” he says, but there are never not boats within sight of the island.

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A Filipino fisherman wades from boat to shore with part of the crew’s catch. Fishermen who go to the South China Sea report that their catches have gotten smaller in recent years. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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The Navotas Fish Port in Manila is the largest in the Philippines. The markets at the port trade in seafood from freshwater farms, national waters, and international waters, including the South China Sea. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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Gilbert Elefane, the Filipino captain of a tuna boat based in the municipality of Quezon, on Palawan, says he now sees up to a hundred boats, many Chinese, on a single two-week fishing trip in the South China Sea. Just a few years ago, he says he’d have seen no more than 30.

Beijing has provided military training and sophisticated GPS and communications technology to its fishermen so they can call in the coast guard if they have a run-in with a foreign law enforcement vessel or alert the coast guard of the presence of fishermen from other countries.

In the face of China’s island building, Vietnam has done some small-scale land reclamation of its own in an attempt to bolster its capacity in the Spratlys. Its efforts, however, have been less destructive than China’s.

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A dock worker uses a mallet to dislodge frozen tuna aboard a Chinese cargo vessel docked at the city of General Santos in the Philippines. The cargo vessel spends up to two months at sea with a fleet of a dozen tuna boats working to fill its freezer. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

As long as the conflict in the South China Sea continues, it will be nearly impossible to regulate fishing.

When one country tries to protect its fishing grounds, tensions flare. In March, for instance, Indonesian maritime law enforcement officials arrested eight Chinese on charges of illegal fishing. The fishermen were less than three miles (five kilometers) from Indonesia’s Natuna Islands. The Natunas themselves are not in dispute, but the waters north of them, which are particularly rich in gas, have become a new flashpoint. Under international law they’re Indonesian, but they partially overlap with China’s nine-dash line claims, so China says it has a right to fish there.

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A pregnant woman wades in the dirty water near the Navotas Fish Port. The Philippines’ economy relies heavily on fishing and the seafood trade, as do most of the countries around the South China Sea. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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When Indonesia’s vessel began towing the Chinese boat back to port, an armed Chinese coast guard ship appeared and began ramming the Chinese boat to break it free. The Indonesians were forced to let the boat go and retreat.

“It’s unclear whose laws you’re enforcing when you have seven overlapping sets of fisheries laws,” Poling says. “States have a vested interest in purposely violating fishing laws of other states.”

That’s because abiding by another country’s fishing law is tantamount to accepting that that country has jurisdiction over that region, which no country has been willing to do.

In 2012, a Philippine navy warship attempted to arrest Chinese fishermen at Scarborough Shoal, about 138 miles (220 kilometers) from the Philippine coast, on suspicion of illegal fishing and poaching rare corals, giant clams, and sharks. A Chinese coast guard ship interfered to prevent the arrests, forcing a standoff. After 10 weeks both sides agreed to withdraw, but once the Philippines left, China remained, effectively seizing control of the shoal.

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A fisherman at the General Santos Fish Port carries a yellowfin tuna caught in the South China Sea. Fishermen say the fish they catch now are smaller than before.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

 

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Workers at the Navotas Fish Port unload and sort fish from commercial boats that have returned from the South China Sea, where overfishing has exacerbated the land and sea disputes in the region. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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As Filipino fishermen have seen their catches—and the fish themselves—getting smaller, they’ve increasingly been resorting to dangerous, illegal fishing methods. Blast fishing, which Filipinos call “bong bong” fishing, involves setting off homemade bombs underwater to kill dozens of fish at one time. Cyanide fishing, which involves squirting fish in the face with poison to stun them, is used to catch live reef fish to supply high-end live seafood restaurants in Hong Kong and other large Asian cities. Both practices kill coral and other fish, collateral damage that’s pushing the sea ever closer to an overfishing crisis.

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Dock workers at the Navotas Fish Port sort through mussels. If the South China Sea fishery were to collapse, it would threaten the food supply of millions. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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China’s island building and giant clam poaching have caused most of them documented reef destruction in the South China Sea, an area totaling 62 square miles (163 square kilometers). Island building grinds up corals for use as foundation material, smothers reefs that become the base of islands, and creates sediment plumes that suffocate nearby reefs. Dredging to deepen ports also causes serious damage. And poaching of giant clams entails grinding up corals to loosen the shells from the reef.

“It’s quite possible we’re seeing a serious decline in about half of the reefs,” John McManus, the marine biologist, says. “That’s what I expect will happen, if it hasn’t happened already. It’s just total destruction.”

When a reef is destroyed, the ecosystem unravels. Reef fish lose their habitat, and pelagic fish such as tuna lose an important source of food. Furthermore, reefs in the South China Sea are connected. Fish larvae from one reef ride the current across the sea to repopulate another reef. If a reef disappears, so does that source of larvae, increasing the chance that local extirpations of fish species will be permanent.

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Dock workers and fishermen buy food from a street vendor at the Navotas Fish Port, in Manila. Some 320,000 Filipinos fish the South China Sea, and many more work on the docks, as fish packers, and as seafood traders, among other jobs.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

McManus says that many of the damaged reefs will be able to recover in a decade or two—if the island building and destructive giant clam poaching stop. He champions the idea of a “peace park,” a kind of marine protected area where all countries would put a freeze on their claims and halt all activities, like island building, that bolster those claims.

Experts also say cooperative regional management could go a long way toward making the South China Sea fishery sustainable. It would require dramatic cutbacks in the number of fishing boats and restrictions on fishing methods such as the use of huge fishing vessels that use powerful lights at night to attract tuna. All this would in turn mean helping fishermen find other ways to earn a living.

Under a sustainable management plan, tuna and mackerel could recover 17-fold by 2045, Rashid Sumaila and William Cheung at the University of British Columbia predicted in a 2015 report. Reef fish would recover up to 15 percent, and the catch and value of reef fish would also increase. Sharks and groupers, which are also high-value fish, would make a comeback too.

But Poling, of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, questions whether such a plan will happen in time. “What that requires is setting aside the disputes,” he says. “It’s possible—it’s just not likely. In order to have a successful joint management system, the first step is to agree on what area you’re talking about.” With China clinging to its nine-dash line while other countries base their claims on international law, agreement just won’t be possible, he says.

As it now stands, the South China Sea’s most important resource—its fish—is disappearing, and countries are either passively standing by or actively encouraging their fishermen to take more.

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Children fish at dusk in the fishing community of Quezon in the Philippines. Fishermen here ply their trade in national waters and the South China Sea. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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Aurora Almendral contributed to this report.

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Coming Tuesday: China’s giant clam poaching is decimating reefs in the South China Sea.

Follow Rachael Bale on Twitter.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to ngwildlife@ngs.org.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/wildlife-south-china-sea-overfishing-threatens-collapse/

Related:

We at Peace and Freedom have catalogued much of the history of recent events and issues around the South China Sea for the past five years. Use these keywords to see more:

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 — From March 25, 2017 with links to other related articles

National Geographic:

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A China Coast Guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a stand off as the Philippine boat attempts to reach the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea a reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jay Directo )

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A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)

A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

Vietnamese fishing boat Captain Tran Van Quang

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

 

Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea

Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city, the Philippines, to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea

 

 (This    article has links to several  others related to environmental issues in the South China Sea).

A green sea turtle is seen off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

A green sea turtle.(Reuters)

 (Includes Obama creates largest ocean reserve, takes heat for new federal decrees)

 (Has links to many related conservation and environmental articles)

 (Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports)

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Filipino activists and Vietnamese nationals display placards and chant anti-China slogans as they march outside the Chinese Consulate in Manila’s Makati financial district on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on Friday, May 16, 2014, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. — PHOTO: REUTERS

 

 (August 25, 2016)

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China’s Tian Jing Hao – Cutter suction dredger — Used to destroy South China Sea coral reefs to provide dredge material for new man made- islands — an environmental disaster

 (Contains links to several related articles)

August 17, 2015

ANOTHER set of a dredge floater assembly with Chinese markings found in the Zambales sea is pulled to the shore of the capital town of Iba on Sunday. The first set of dredge floaters was found by local fishermen off Cabangan, Zambales province, in July. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

 

 

An elderly Vietnamese protester holds a placard during an anti-China protest in front of the Chinese consulate in the financial district of Manila on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on May 16, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. Many Vietnamese remain uneasy with China in the South china sea till this day.  AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

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The End of an era?  Fishermen work to unload a net full of anchovies during a fishing expedition in the Pacific Ocean. Photo AP

 

 

Lost Photos

March 25, 2017

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China is more than willing to share the Philippines with Filipinos, Beijing says — And Vietnam?

March 20, 2017

By Alan Robles

OPINION

Posted at Mar 20 2017 04:18 PM

China is more than willing to share the Philippines with Filipinos, Beijing said yesterday.

According to official China spokesperson Rodrigo Duterte, “there’s no need to be greedy, there is more than enough Philippines to go around.”

“Equal shares with equal brothers,” he added.

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reacts during a press conference at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines on Monday, March 13, 2017. AP/Aaron Favila
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The spokesperson said China was making the “generous offer in the light of the extra warm relations between our countries.” The announcement came after the two countries signed a groundbreaking agreement called the “Extra Close Special Luv Kiss Kiss” treaty.

Part of the agreement will see the Philippines receiving billions of yuan in loans, a national railway called the China’s Durable Railroad (CDR) and fentanyl.

“We particularly value the fentanyl,” said a Filipino diplomat who asked not to be identified.

Tabs of fentanyl, manufactured to look like prescription pills, are seen in a synthetic drug-testing lab at the Drug Enforcement Agency's Special Testing and Research Lab in Sterling, Va. in 2016

Tabs of fentanyl, manufactured to look like prescription pills, are seen in a synthetic drug-testing lab at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s Special Testing and Research Lab in Sterling, Va. in 2016.  PHOTO: T.J. KIRKPATRICK FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
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The Philippines promises (among other things) to stop using the name “West Philippine Sea” (WPS) and instead adopt the “proper nomenclature” – “Very Much China’s Sea Oh Yes Indeedy” (VMCSOYI).

China, for its part, will invest heavily in the Philippines and buy more products such as bananas, copies of the Duterte Manifesto, and Filipino entertainment series. One Chinese politician said, “China would like to the rights to that famous comedy show, ‘The Senate Hearings.’ It’s a big hit in Beijing.”

Chinese officials “strenuously” denied rumors the Philippines had actually turned itself over to China, which officially responded with a statement, “Awww you shouldn’t have, but thanks.”

“That is clearly nonsense,” one Beijing diplomat assured. “What’s ours is ours and what’s yours is ours.”

Image result for oil rig, china flag, photos

China announced that on this historic occasion, as a sign of its “fraternal ties” with Manila, China would waive all fees to Filipinos swimming on the beaches off Lingayan.

“Offer valid for summer only, terms may apply,” a Chinese official said, off the record.

A senior Chinese leader told a press conference, “and if you’re extra good and well behaved, we’ll even let you share the resources of Benham Rise.”

Told by one reporter that Benham Rise is on the Pacific side of the Philippines, well outside the South China Sea, the Chinese leader made a cutting motion on his throat and the reporter was dragged away screaming.

“Next question please,” the official said.

Spokesperson Duterte expressed confidence that with “mutual confidence and more hard work” Manila would acknowledge China’s “indisputable” rights to the Pacific Ocean, the North Pole, the aurora borealis and the Moon.

Philippine diplomats declared the country was more than prepared to assert its rights in the strongest ways, which would follow two tracks: the first would consist of “strong declarations” made in the “loudest possible whisper” in a deep dark basement in Malacañang Palace.

“With the door closed and the lights out,” one undersecretary stressed.

The second track would consist of shooting more Filipinos.

“Why not, we’ve been very successful at it,” the undersec shrugged.

Beijing said it was “pleased” the agreement frees the Philippines from the “onerous” job of defending territory, letting it focus on really crucial priorities, such as training more world class professional boxers to become idiot senators.

In fact, spokesperson Duterte said, “China doesn’t see what the Philippines needs a military for. Get rid of that thing. Nothing to defend.”

A junketing member of the Philippine delegation said the agreement was a “win-win” because “this will avoid an unnecessary bloody war.”

“Because as we all know, the only way you settle territorial disputes is by bloody war. It says so right here in the “Duterte Manual of Negotiation and Tokhang.”

The Philippine delegation said it was “overcome with gratitude” for Beijing’s generosity.

“On behalf of the Philippines we thank you,” Philippine president Rodrigo said.

“You’re welcome”, China spokesperson Duterte replied.

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http://www.hotmanila.ph/

European Leaders Have No Intention of Letting Go of Former British Fishing Grounds After Brexit

February 16, 2017

THE European Union’s “desperate” attempt to “grab” UK fish stocks should be fought by the British government, UKIP has insisted.

PUBLISHED: 05:24, Thu, Feb 16, 2017 | UPDATED: 07:44, Thu, Feb 16, 2017
Leaked reports claimed this week that MEPs in the European Parliament are drafting provisions to be included in the final Brexit agreement – including legislation that Britain should not be allowed an “increase to the UK’s share of fishing opportunities for jointly fished stocks”.EU countries want fishing rules which apply to all member states to continue to apply to Britain’s waters after the divorce.

As such, the fish in Britain’s territory would be seen as a ‘shared resource’.

The suggestion Britain could be overruled by the EU – once the split becomes official – has angered British politicians.

Outraged Mike Hookem said Britain’s waters must return to “UK control regardless of what the EU want”.

Leaked report could anger fisheriesGETTY

Leaked report states EU member states want to continue fishing in ‘shared’ areas

The MEP said: “This is nothing more than the EU wanting to have their cake and eat it.”Time and again we are told the UK will not get any ‘special deals’ post-Brexit.

“Well, in that case, it should work both ways, and UK waters must return to UK control regardless of what the EU want.”

The documents suggest the EU and Britain cannot keep to the United Nations stocks agreement without “the continued application of the common fisheries policy”.

The EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was first introduced in 1983 when stocks were low.

CFP sets out the rules and laws that control and govern commercial fishing across the entire European Union.

The Union however, suggests fish moving across the territorial waters of different nations are a shared resource and the common fisheries policy therefore sets standardised rules which apply to all EU member nations.

UK fish stocks used by EuropeGETTY

British waters were shared with EU fisheries in the 1970s

UKIP Fisheries Spokesman, Mike Hookem MEP said: “In 1973 the Government sold out the fishing industry.”This cannot be allowed to happen again. Under the terms of paragraph three of Article 50, all treaties including the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) will “cease to apply” to the UK, and Britain’s waters will be protected by a 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) under international law.

“This will mean that there will not such thing as “jointly fished stocks” when we leave the EU.

“Anything less than getting back full control of our waters post-Brexit will be another utter betrayal of the fishing industry. Fishermen knew in 1972 that their industry had been stolen from them by politicians desperate to get into the EEC ‘club’ and Brexit is our opportunity to retake control our waters.”

MEPs also insist that EU vessel-owners should continue to be allowed to manage boats under the UK flag.

Mike Hookem MEP

Mike Hookem MEP has called for the Government to demand return to pre-70s arangement. Getty Images

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http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/767809/fishermen-EU-bid-grab-UK-fish-stocks-Brexit-revealed
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Over half of the fish caught in UK waters seized by EU boats, report shows
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MORE than half the fish caught off Britain’s coast are landed by foreign trawlers, a devastating report into the EU’s fisheries policy has revealed.
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PUBLISHED: 18:31, Tue, Oct 11, 2016 | UPDATED: 18:48, Tue, Oct 11, 2016

UK fishing industryALAMY

More than half the fish caught off Britain’s coast are landed by foreign trawlers

Boats from other seized 58 per cent of the fish and shellfish in UK waters between 2012 and 2014.

This equates to around 650,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish worth £408 million per year, most of which was caught around Scotland.

In contrast, UK fishing boats landed only 90,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish, worth about £103 million, from elsewhere in EU waters each year.

Industry leaders said the study by the University of the Highlands and Islands’ NAFC Marine Centre proved offered a “sea of opportunity”.Scotland’s fishermen are angry at ‘s bid to somehow stay tied to Brussels and threats of another independence referendum.

They argue leaving the EU will sound the death knell of the hated Common Fisheries Policy and allow the UK to control its a 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

First Minister Nicola SturgeonSWNS

Scotland’s fishermen are angry at Nicola Sturgeon’s bid to somehow stay tied to Brussels

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said: “This detailed analysis of these landing figures is a bombshell that reveals the truly shocking extent of how our rich fishing grounds have been given away in recent decades.”Brexit provides a sea of opportunity to breathe new life into our coastal communities by ensuring increased catching opportunities and fit for purpose management within our own EEZ.”

Warning against sacrificing fishing rights to maintain economic links he added: “It would be a monumental betrayal of our coastal communities if this opportunity was traded away in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.”

Boat - UK fishing industry

The Scottish part of the UK’s EEZ covers more than 180,309 square miles. PA photo

The Scottish part of the UK’s EEZ covers more than 180,309 square miles, accounting for 61 per cent of the total.

Brexit provides a sea of opportunity to breathe new life into our coastal communities

Scottish Fishermen’s Federation CEO Bertie Armstrong

More than half (51 per cent) of the fish and shellfish landed from the Scottish part was caught by non-UK boats.They landed 386,000 tons from Scottish waters per year, worth £210 million.

Earlier this year Scottish Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing rejected fishermen’s argument that ditching the Common Fisheries Policy could see the Scottish industry achieve its full potential.

Welcoming the report, Scottish Tory MEP Ian Duncan said: “Every British fisher regards the Common Fisheries Policy as a disaster.”The vote to leave the EU gives us the opportunity to develop policies that work for fishermen, not against them.”

Jack Montgomery, of the Leave EU campaign, said: “There was a time when the SNP decried the wholesale destruction of fishing jobs and coastal communities by the Common Fisheries Policy. Now they say they would trade our stocks away as the price of rejoining the EU.”

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “Our fishing industry is immensely valuable and supporting our fishermen across the UK will form an important part of our exit from the EU – this means ensuring a profitable fishing industry, sustainable stocks and a healthy marine environment.”

South China Sea: Japan to supply new patrol boats to Vietnam

January 17, 2017
 Reuters
Bt Mai Nguyen and My Pham

Hanoi: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday promised Vietnam six new patrol boats during a visit to the Southeast Asian country locked in a dispute with China over the busy South China Sea waterway.

Abe’s stop in Vietnam completes a tour through an arc of a region where Japan stakes a leadership claim in the face of China’s growing dominance and uncertainty over what policy change Donald Trump will bring as US president.

Military music band play before a welcoming ceremony for Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Presidential Palace in ...

“We will strongly support Vietnam’s enhancing its maritime law enforcement capability,” Abe said, while emphasising that the dispute over the South China Sea should be settled through talks and in accordance with international law.

China claims almost all the South China Sea, through which about $US5 trillion worth of seaborne trade passes every year. Vietnam and four other countries also have claims in the sea, believed to have rich deposits of oil and gas.

Tokyo has no territorial claims there, but worries about China’s growing military reach into the sea lanes. Japan has a separate dispute with China over a cluster of tiny islets in the East China Sea.

In September, Japan had said it was ready to provide new patrol boats to Vietnam after earlier supplying six old vessels.

Maritime security and trade have been key themes during Abe’s other stops – in Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia.

Given the readiness of the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte to move closer to the Chinese and further from its traditional US ally, Vietnam is one of fewer regional states showing potential readiness to confront China.

Uncertainty over US policy in Asia was amplified last week by comments from Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson that China must stop building islands in the South China Sea and that its access to those islands must not be allowed.

Despite their differences, Vietnam also maintains a strong diplomatic track with China. China and Vietnam said at the weekend they had agreed to manage their maritime differences and preserve peace and stability.

Both Japan and Vietnam have also been strong supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade pact which looks to have stalled in the face of Trump’s pledge to withdraw the United States.

In Hanoi, Abe stressed the importance of the TPP and other free trade agreements, but gave no further details.

The delegation signed a number of business agreements, including energy and textile projects and a project to help with the impact of climate change. Japan is Vietnam’s biggest foreign investor after South Korea.

 

China says has defeated ‘conspiracy’ to stir up South China Sea trouble (International law be damned)

December 4, 2016

Sat Dec 3, 2016 | 12:16am EST

Reuters

China’s success at turning around relations with the Philippines under its new president Rodrigo Duterte show the “conspiracies” of certain countries to stir up trouble in the South China Sea have been defeated, China’s foreign minister said on Saturday.

In July, the Philippines won a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague challenging China’s sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, which infuriated China.

But Duterte has sought to turn foe to friend, visiting Beijing in October, largely putting aside the dispute.

Speaking at an academic forum, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Duterte’s visit signaled an important improvement in ties.

Presidents Duterte and Xi meet at APEC Summit (Photo: CNN)

“This marks the return of the South China Sea issue to the correct track of resolution via dialogue and consultation, and means the conspiracies of relevant countries to use the South China Sea issue to disorder the region have been thoroughly broken,” he said.

Wang did not name any countries, but China has frequently blamed the United States and its allies in the region like Japan and Australia for interfering in the South China Sea.

Wang’s comments were carried on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Richard Pullin)

Related:

China boasts about the “concrete act of benevolence from China” — But it wants to fish even where it has no legal claim. China’s offer offer was akin to offering “lollipops to children.”

https://johnib.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/china-trying-to-buy-fishing-rights-from-the-philippines-money-aquaculture-assistance-technology-even-training-in-china/

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Above: Filipino fishermen after a successful fishing expedition in the South China Sea

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U.S. President Elect Donald Trump meeting with japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Trump Tower, November 17, 2016.

Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal

A Chinese fishing boat catches fires during an inspection by the South Korean coastguard in September. File photo: AP
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Chinese fishing fleet

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid.