China: Fishing To Expand Maritime Territories? – Analysis



Increasing Chinese maritime law enforcement capabilities in the South China Sea (SCS), ostensibly to protect the interests of its fishermen, may only exacerbate tensions in one of the world’s closely monitored regional flashpoints. This is especially so in the context of increasing commercial fishing operations by SCS littoral states and the absence of a multilateral understanding on fishing in the tightly-contested area.


Last March 2013, China had commissioned its largest fishery patrol vessel, the 49.5 million ton displacement-Yuzheng 312, which sailed from Guangzhou to the disputed Spratlys. This ship will go along with the 21 medium to large Chinese patrol ships and over 3,000 personnel tasked with enforcing Chinese domestic fishery laws in the SCS, including Mischief Reef and Scarborough Shoal. The fleet belongs to the South Sea Region Fisheries Administration Bureau (SSRFAB) which had been known to escort Chinese fishing vessels as they fish in the disputed waters. SSRFAB is under the China Fisheries Law Enforcement Command, which in turn is under the Ministry of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries Administration. From being a provincial level agency, it came under the umbrella of the central government, which seems indicative of the renewed importance Beijing is attaching to the SCS.

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