Chinese boats seek sea fishery resources

BEIJING, July 18 (UPI) — About 30 Chinese fishing vessels arrived at Zhubi shoal in the Spratlys in the South China Sea as Beijing reasserted its sovereignty in the disputed region.

Amid rising tensions over the sovereignty issue, with overlapping claims by China’s neighboring countries, the Chinese fishing boats arrived at the location in the energy-rich Spratly Islands Wednesday, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported, saying “Chinese fishermen are setting their eyes on the vast and largely untapped fishery resources in the South China Sea … .”

The Chinese fishing fleet includes a 3,000-ton lead boat carrying fresh water, fuel and other supplies, the report said.

Xinhua said fishermen of Hainan province have been fishing in the South China Sea “for centuries but fishing in such a big fleet is a rarity.”

The report said some fishermen had complained that suspected Vietnamese fishing vessels were like “shadow” tailing the fleet along the way. One was quoted as saying there were too many Vietnamese fishing vessels which “shouldn’t be fishing in China’s waters.”

Xinhua said China claims sovereignty over 820,000 square sea miles in the South China Sea, stretching from Qiongnan shoal in the north to Zenmu hidden shoal in the south, Hailima shoal in the east to Wan’an shoal in the west.

China said this week one of its naval warships was freed after running aground in the Spratlys’ Half Moon Shoal near the Philippines, one of the countries with claims in the sea.

Other countries that also make claims in the sea include Vietnam and Taiwan.

Xinhua said China has beefed up patrols in the region and set up a prefectural-level city, Sansha, to administer more than 200 islets, sandbanks and reefs covering 2 million square kilometers of water.

The report quoted Hainan fishery officials as saying Sansha hosts an estimated fishery reserve of 5 million tons.

The report said Hainan plans to shift its fishery industry focus from near-shore fishing too far off-shore fishing and fishermen would be encouraged to “build big boats and explore the deep sea.”

The 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations ended its annual meeting last week without a joint communique on the South China Asia. China, which wields much influence in some ASEAN countries, has said the sea dispute should be resolved bilaterally and not in a multilateral setting, which is preferred by the United States, which is focusing more in the Asia-Pacific region.

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