Some 294 Chinese fishing boats and 2,905 Chinese fishermen have been caught so far this year illegally fishing in Korean territorial waters.
The number of Chinese trawlers caught illegally fishing in Korea's Exclusive Economic Zone rose from 79 in 2007 to 91 last year, while the number of Chinese boats that trespassed into Korean territorial waters almost doubled from 27 to 53 over the same period.
Chinese fishermen are becoming increasingly brazen in their methods, and the scale of their activities is expanding. In the past, Chinese trawlers would only fish on foggy days or at night and slink away at daybreak. But these days they group together with ropes to create small armadas and resist arrest by using violence, or gang up against police wielding makeshift weapons.
Aware of the tense standoff between North and South Korea, other Chinese boats fish near the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border separating the two Koreas where South Korean maritime police cannot easily approach. A 100-ton mother ship blocks police vessels to buy time, while smaller fishing boats escape. In some cases, around 100 Chinese fishing boats surround a fertile fishing zone. Korean fishermen complain that Chinese fishing boats are everywhere and make it tough for them to cast their nets.
Chinese fishing boats abuse international laws that allow vessels from other countries to pass through a country's territorial waters to reach its ports. In the absence of Korean maritime police, they fish in Korean waters, but when police appear, they gather their nets and pretend to be passing through. In such instances, police cannot make any arrests unless they can prove that illegal fishing was taking place.