Defying the ban by China on summer fishing in disputed areas of the South China Sea, Vietnam has encouraged its fishermen to continue their activities there. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said the waters were Vietnamese sea territory and the ban was invalid.
It also directed provinces and cities to encourage fishermen with guide groups and teams to support the fishermen at sea.
According to the Vietnam Express, the ministry said fishing vessels with licenses valid until the end of this year can fish in the Tonkin Gulf common fishing area, but asked them to avoid the area east of the Tonkin Gulf delimitation line.
On April 30, China announced that the annual fishing ban on the South China Sea has begun on May 1 and would last until August 16, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.
The ban would apply to certain sea areas of the South China Sea that encompass parts of the Tonkin Gulf and Paracel Islands.
China said no fishing activities are allowed in sea areas under its sovereignty within the time period, except in certain cases.
The Vietnam Fisheries Society has also opposed China’s unilateral decision, saying the fishing ban has no legal value over sea areas under Vietnam’s sovereignty.
Four days later, Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry also expressed clear opposition and asked Beijing not to complicate the situation further.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said Vietnam has full legal basis and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands, as well as its legal rights over its waters in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
China has been issuing similar fishing bans every year in recent times and Vietnam has consistently condemned and rejected them.
China claims the bans seek to promote sustainable fisheries development and improve marine ecology.
China had seized the Paracel Islands from South Vietnam in 1974, and has been occupying it since.
In 2012 it established the so-called Sansha City with the archipelago’s Woody Island as its seat.
The “city” also covers a number of reefs in the Spratly Islands that China seized by force in 1988 as well as the Scarborough Shoal.
Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry responded saying Vietnam had no right to comment on China’s summer fishing moratorium in the South China Sea waters since the measure was its administrative rights.
Xinhua reports Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian saying the ban was a legitimate move to exercise its administrative rights and fulfil relevant international obligations in accordance with the law.
He added that the measure was beneficial for the protection of fishery resources and sustainable development in South China Sea.
“Vietnam should not encourage its fishermen to infringe upon China’s rights and interests and undermine the sustainable development of fishery resources in the South China Sea,” Zhao said