Monday, 8 June 2009

Vietnam urges China to cancel fishing ban

Hanoi - Vietnam is urging China to cancel its fishing ban in parts of the South China Sea in effect until August 1, Vietnamese media reported Monday.

Vietnam government spokesman Le Dung said Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs had called the Chinese embassy in Hanoi urging China to cease operations at sea which interfere with Vietnamese fishermen's trade.

'I think this response comes too late, but it is necessary to encourage Vietnamese fishermen to continue their work,' said Nguyen Viet Thang, chairman of the Vietnam Fisheries Society.

China officially imposed the ban on May 16 to prevent overfishing, but the area - a huge exclusive economic zone surrounding the Spratly and Paracel Islands in the South China Sea - has long been at the centre of an international territorial dispute between Vietnam and China, as well as other countries in the region.

Last Thursday, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ho Xuan Son met with the Chinese ambassador to Vietnam, Sun Quoqiang, and told him that the fishing ban 'caused indignation among the public, bringing no benefit to bilateral relations.' He requested that the Chinese side stop all operations preventing Vietnamese fishermen fishing in marine areas under Vietnamese sovereignty.

Dan Tri newspaper reported Friday that a Vietnamese fishing boat was attacked by two unknown ships while fishing in the South China Sea. After hitting and damaging the fishing boat the two ships left.

Lao Dong newspaper reported on May 20 that a Vietnamese fishing vessel was hit intentionally by an unidentified ship near the Spratly and Paracel Islands.

After the attack, the boat sank and 26 fishermen had to use life buoys to survive. They were eventually saved by nearby fishing boats after having spent several hours in the sea.

The state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper last week reported that hundreds of Vietnamese fishing boats had docked at their ports for days due to worries about China's fishing ban.

'We are encouraging fishermen to continue fishing,' said Chu Tien Vinh, director of the Department for Aquatic Product Resources Protection. 'If they are attacked by foreign ships, they should immediately inform the authorities. The coast guard will protect them.'

Tensions over sovereignty in the South China Sea have risen since a May 13 deadline for countries to submit territorial claims to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Beijing rejected submissions by Malaysia, Vietnam and other countries as violating its own claims in the area.

Monsters and Critics

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