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Vietnam spars with China over fishing ban
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By Madelyn Kearns, SeafoodSource associate editor

Vietnam

China seems content to keep a fishing ban it imposed on the South China Sea intact, much to Vietnam’s chagrin.

In an impassioned statement released late on 16 May, Vietnam laid claim to the much-disputed Paracel Islands and their surrounding waters, which fall within the ban parameters. Vietnam’s foreign ministry blasted China’s ban – which prohibits fishing within the South China Sea from 16 May to 1 August – as a violation of international law and Vietnam’s sovereignty and jurisdictional rights.

China was swift in brushing off Vietnam’s protest come Monday, however, when ministry spokesman Hong Lei defended the ban as an international obligation that China must fulfill.

"China's position on the South China Sea is consistent and clear," Hong Lei said in a press conference.

The annual ban began in 1999, when China saw fit to “to promote the sustainable development of the fishing industry in the South China Sea and protect the fundamental interests of fishermen," according to its state news agency Xinhua.

A Vietnamese industry representative has accused China of attempting to take over Vietnam’s exclusive maritime zone in the Gulf of Tonkin via the ban, according to Reuters. This even though fishing and delimitation agreements were signed between the two nations in 2000.

Competing claims by Vietnam and China regarding islands and reefs located within the South China Sea came to a head in 2012 and 2014, when China detained several Vietnamese fishermen for violating the ban. What’s more, in May 2014, China deployed a USD 1 billion oil rig into waters claimed by Vietnam, resulting in violent protests throughout the country. Both sides have accused one another of resorting to vessel ramming in instances of confrontation.

In the wake of China’s refusal to abolish the fishing ban, organizations like the Vietnam Association of Fisheries are encouraging fishermen to continue with their work in the contested area while also rallying the Vietnamese government to protect them for doing so. 

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