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Safe Fishing v. Devastation of Crab Fishing Grounds

Posted June. 04, 2003 22:34,   


At a pier on Yeonpyeong Island at 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, a total of 51 crab fishing boats were busy with preparations for going out fishing.

Fishermen, who were taking care of fishing tools before leaving, showed mixed reactions to the reemerging issue of the designation of joint waters in which fishing boats from North and South Korea will be allowed to catch fish.

Some said that if a joint fishery zone were established, tensions between North and South Korea on the West Sea will be somewhat eased, whereas others expressed their concern over the issue by saying that the establishment of joint waters will lead to overfishing of crabs because of the nation`s fishing boats flocking in these areas.

Crabs caught off Yeonpyeong Island account for 30% of total crab production in Korea. And it has been expected that the share will rise to 35% due to abundant crabs this year.

Residents on the island expressed mixed reactions to demands raised by some groups that the buffer zone known as the Red Line around the Northern Limit Line where crabs are abundant be designated as joint waters between the North and the South.

The idea of designating bilateral joint waters bears persuasive aspects to some extent given that South and North Korean naval forces experience loss of life and injures because of naval conflicts caused by crab fishing every year.

A fisherman said that “Chinese fishing boats often carry out illegal fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone, even violating the Northern Limit Line (NLL). Designating joint waters between South Korea and North Korea will serve as an effective means to prevent Chinese fishing boats from entering the area.”

Fishermen on this island owed 50 million to 60 million won per fishing boat because they couldn`t catch crabs at the end of the crab season due to the naval crash which took place on June 29 last year.

In particular, some fishermen carried out illegal fishing, by leaving local fishing grounds to make a living.

Some fishermen expect that designating the red line nearby the NLL regarded as golden crab grounds as joint waters will guarantee them safe crab fishing in the area.

However, others are showing a negative opinion. For instance, in 1999 when the South Korean maritime and fishery ministry pushed ahead with plans to establish joint waters, some fishermen on the island were against the plan by staging massive street protests.

A major reason for opposition at that time was because the Maritime and Fishery Ministry pushed ahead with plans to expand the bilateral joint fishing zone to nationwide fishing grounds in case those areas were devastated.

A community leader on the island said: “In order to designate this area as a joint water zone, there should be measures to protect this area with abundant crabs from being ruined.”