Hainan’s provincial government has become an increasingly prominent and active player in the South China Sea disputes. In November 2012, Hainan’s People’s Congress issued new regulations on coastal border security that raised questions about freedom for navigation in the South China Sea (see analysis here and here).
In November 2013, the same legislative body issued “measures” (banfa, 办法) or rules for the province’s implementation of China’s 2004 fisheries law. These new rules, which took effect on January 1, raise questions about China’s efforts to exercise jurisdiction over all fishing activities in the disputed South China Sea.
Current concerns focus on Article 35 of Hainan’s new fishing rules. This article states that “foreigners or foreign fishing ships entering sea areas administered by Hainan and engaged in fishery production or fishery resource surveys should receive approval from relevant departments of the State Council.” As the news report announcing the new rules indicated, the “sea areas administered by Hainan” constitute 2,000,000 square kilometers, more than half of the South China Sea. If implemented, the measures would constitute an effort to control fishing in the entire region in a manner that is clearly inconsistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).