Boost for Coast Guard to Deal with Chinese Fishermen

The government will spend W932.4 billion to add nine large patrol boats by 2015 to reinforce the Coast Guard so they can better repel Chinese trawlers that fish illegally in South Korean waters (US$1=W1,155).

Lim Jong-ryong, the head of the Prime Minister's office, announced the new measures on Monday. The government will also supply all coast guard officers with firearms and double fines for illegal fishing operators, he added. The current fines are believed to be too low compared to the price the fishermen can get for their illegal catch.

The government will increase the number of 1,000-ton-plus patrol ships from 18 to 27 in waters off the southwestern coast by 2015, he added.

The government believes larger patrol ships, which can carry a lot more personnel and equipment, are essential to crack down on the increasingly violent Chinese fishermen, many of whom have installed steel bars or barbed wire on their ships to stop maritime police from boarding.

The government also plans to replace the existing 18 6.5-ton rigid inflatable boats with 10-ton ones to allow two to three more personnel on each when they approach the trawlers.

"All 342 coast guard officers in charge of cracking down on illegal fishing boats will be replaced with special warfare troops," a government official said. "First the Coast Guard will be reinforced with 102 special troops next year." Since last Wednesday, all eight crew members of each RIB have been supplied with firearms, he added.

Fines will rise from W100 million to W200 million and the Coast Guard will now be able to confiscate the illegal catch.

The official said Korea will also push for the establishment of a high-level consultative body with China to discuss illegal fishing.

The moves follow the murder of a Coast Guard commando by a Chinese fisherman earlier this month.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 27, 2011 10:44 KST

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