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S. Korea's crab catch plunges amid rise in uninvited Chinese boats

All News 10:54 June 10, 2016

SEOUL, June 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's crab catch has been more than halved so far this year, the government said Friday, an apparent result of a recent rise in the number of Chinese boats fishing illegally in South Korean waters.

According to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, the country's catch of crab amounted to 575 tons in April, down 69 percent from the same month last year.

Also in the first four months of the year, the country's crab catch plunged 68.5 percent on-year to 664 tons.

The ministry largely attributed the cut to a simple drop in resources, noting the amount of baby crabs in the waters off the port of Incheon, west of Seoul, was tallied at 15,000 tons in 2013, less than half of the 2012 tally.

However, those engaged in fishing argue the real problem is a continued rise in the number of Chinese boats fishing illegally, which has apparently caused the country's crab resources to dry up.

According to the coast guard, there were over 300 Chinese ships fishing illegally in South Korea's western Yellow Sea alone on Thursday. In the first eight days of the month, an average of 163 Chinese boats were spotted each day in the area.

The maritime police continue to seize or fine hundreds of Chinese vessels each year for illegal fishing, but the sheer number of Chinese ships operating illegally in South Korean waters makes it impossible to crack down on them, police officials say.

Also, most Chinese ships stay close to South Korea's maritime border with North Korea, known as the Northern Limit Line (NLL), and often cross the border into the communist North when facing a crackdown.

"Illegal fishing near the NLL is a tricky issue as it involves North Korea," a ministry official said. "And that is why a close coordination of efforts with other related ministries is required."

A meeting of officials from the finance, public administration and welfare, foreign affairs, and defense ministries was held Friday to discuss measures aimed at curbing illegal fishing by Chinese boats, the official added.

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