Skippers of several Taiwanese fishing boats yesterday urged the government to crack down on Vietnamese fishing boats they said are operating in Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone off the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島).
Crews on several Pingtung County-registered boats said they saw Vietnamese fishing vessels operating in waters east and northeast of the Pratas Islands on Sunday.
Another Vietnamese ship was spotted well south of the islands, the fishermen said.
The Liuchiu Fishermen’s Association notified the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) and the Fisheries Agency.
The CGA said it would make the waters a priority area to protect, but would not send ships there for the time being, because large patrol vessels are now in waters between Taiwan and the Philippines and near the Japan-controlled Okinotori atoll in the West Pacific.
Taiwanese fishermen are already in a difficult situation, Liuchiu Fishermen’s Association secretary-general Tsai Pao-hsing (蔡寶興) said.
They face seizure if operating in waters off Okinotori and cannot operate in the overlapping sections of Taiwan and the Philippines’ exclusive economic zones, he said, adding that he fears the situation would worsen if Taiwan’s economic zone is encroached upon.
The Pratas Islands are controlled by Taiwan, but also claimed by China. The main island is one of the biggest in the South China Sea and has been designated as a national park by Taiwan’s government.
A Taiwanese fishing boat, the Tung Sheng Chi No. 16, was seized on April 25 by the Japan Coast Guard while operating about 150 nautical miles (280km) from Okinotori. The boat and crew were released the following day after the boat’s owner paid a security deposit demanded by Japanese authorities, pending legal procedures.
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