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27 June 2009

Chinese patrols hurt Vietnam’s fishing industry

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Vietnam's foreign ministry announced in early June that China had ordered a fishing ban in some areas of the South China Sea "including those under Vietnam's sovereignty", reported Reuters.

The fishermen say they try to avoid the controversial areas but China's stepped-up enforcement has put their incomes at risk, while some of their colleagues have allegedly been detained on Hainan or had their nets and fish seized.

Vietnamese fisherman Huynh Minh On and other fishermen say they have seen an increasing number of the Chinese ships over the past two months in disputed waters around the Paracel archipelago, and near China's Hainan Island. On, 50, said the monthly earnings of his fishing boat have dropped by about half recently, to around 40 million or 50 million dong ($2,222-2,777).

"It is mainly because of the Chinese," On says, reclining on bags of fishing nets piled beside his boat at the key fishing port of Danang, in central Vietnam. Boats radio each other "so we can run away" when Chinese enforcement ships are spotted but this eats up time and money, he said.

The ministry said China had increased its patrols and made more arrests in the areas, part of what it calls the East Sea.

On Thursday a foreign ministry statement reiterated that the ban, running until August 1, is "unacceptable" because it includes areas under Vietnamese sovereignty. No one from the Chinese embassy in Hanoi could be reached to comment on the issue Thursday.

A long-standing dispute between Vietnam and China over sovereignty of the Paracels and a more southerly archipelago, the Spratleys, has recently escalated. Fishermen are caught in the middle.


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