Go to contents

[Opinion] The Blue Crab War

Posted May. 03, 2005 23:17,   


It is the season for crab fishing. Blue crabs live around Korea, China, and Japan, and their spawning season is in June and July. Their shells are diamond-shaped, and their pincer claws are big and long. Blue crabs are also cited as “well-being” foods, known to prevent cancer and aging.

This time of the year, fishermen near Yeonpyeong Island are on edge, weary of the North Korean and Chinese fishing vessels near the Northern Limit Line (NLL). Naval forces are also on tighter guard than usual as the “war on blue crabs” has already been waged twice.

First of all, the navy guards against North Korean fishing vessels crossing the boundary for blue crabs. The Yeonpyeong Battle six years ago was triggered when a North Korean fishing vessel and a patrol boat crossed far below the NLL. The West Sea Battle during the 2002 World Cup also occurred when a Northern naval vessel crossed the line while patrolling for blue crab fishing vessels. The navy must prevent South Korean fishing boats from crossing the NLL as well. Its mission also includes preventing Chinese fishing vessels from catching blue crabs in our territorial sea.

Chinese boats have been appearing more frequently in recent years. While the South and North are cautious about fishing, 300 to 1,000 Chinese boats a year try to take advantage of the situation. The blue crab catch in the Yellow Sea (West Sea) area has greatly dropped because of Chinese vessels fishing in the area. Fishermen complain, “Be it blue crabs or small fishes, we get nothing in our fishing nets because Chinese boats are walking away with all, even during the closed seasons.” They also say, “So we have no choice but to cross the boundary, otherwise we cannot catch any blue crabs.”

The illegal fishing of Chinese vessels sometimes leads to trials. Last year, fishermen living around the Yeonpyeong area filed for damages of 30 billion won against the government for its negligence. This year, they sued the Chinese ambassador to South Korea and others for 87.9 billion won in damages with the Seoul Central Court, saying that they were damaged because the Chinese government had not controlled its own country’s fishing vessels. It was an act of self-help.

The Chinese government now must take the initiative to prohibit illegal fishing. Otherwise, the consequent tension between South Korea and China will cost more than the blue crabs they fish for.

Kim Chung-shik, Editorial writer, skim@donga.com