The Vietnamese government has once again rejected China’s seasonal fishing restriction in the South China Sea. The restriction, enforced unilaterally by Beijing each year, lasts from May to August and extends to all seas north of 12 degrees latitude, including the majority of the Gulf of Tonkin and the Paracel Islands, which are held by China but also claimed by Vietnam.
The three-and-a-half-month embargo took effect on Sunday and applies to any seas in the South China Sea north of 12 degrees north latitude, which Vietnam and the Philippines also refer to as their “traditional fishing grounds.”
The fishing prohibition was condemned by Hanoi as a “violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty and territorial authority.”
The ban covers a portion of the Gulf of Tonkin as well as the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by both China and Vietnam.
“Vietnam requests China to respect Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Paracel Islands, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its maritime zones when taking measures to conserve biological resources in the East Sea (South China Sea), without complicating the situation in order to maintain peace, stability, and order in the East Sea,” said a spokeswoman for the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry.
Vietnam’s position on China’s fishing restriction, according to spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang, “has been constant and well known over the years.”
Meanwhile, the Philippines, which conducts presidential elections next weekend, has yet to reply to the suspension.
Manila has previously complained and even urged for Filipino fishermen to disregard the Chinese prohibition and continue their activities in the waters known as the West Philippine Sea.

According to Radio Free Asia, the Philippines is mum most likely due to the upcoming presidential election on May 9. However, Manila has generally showed disdain for Beijing’s yearly moratorium.
“This fishing embargo does not apply to our fishermen,” the Philippines’ South China Sea task force stated when the ban was implemented last year. “Our fishermen are encouraged to go out and fish in our seas in the WPS (West Philippine Sea),” as Manila refers to its stretches of the waterway.
Since 1999, China has implemented the May 1-August 16 ban. According to the Chinese state-run People’s Daily, the prohibition is “part of the country’s efforts to promote sustainable marine fishing growth and improve marine environment.”
Overfishing is a serious problem in the South China Sea. Rapid population expansion and economic development in the nations bordering the seaway have increased demand for fish, putting enormous strain on the region’s fish reserves.
The fishing restriction imposed by China was intended to allow these fish species to recuperate and renew, but it has since been entangled in sovereignty conflicts between China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. “While the ban itself may make sound conservation sense,” writes Bill Hayton in his 2014 book “The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia,” “its unilateral restriction has stopped other countries from choosing to join it because they fear that assent could be interpreted as acknowledgement of Chinese sovereign rights.”

In any case, the embargo does not apply to Chinese fishing vessels having legitimate licenses to fish in contested seas, according to Hayton. “The instruction is obvious to them: go to the disputed territories, fly the flag, and bring back the tuna,” he writes.

The Chinese prohibition highlights how environmental preservation and food security have become captives to the South China Sea’s maritime and territorial issues. The inability and unwillingness of the nations that rely significantly on the sea’s fish supplies to agree to reciprocal fishing limits and other steps to counteract overfishing speaks poorly of their capacity to resolve the underlying sovereignty problems.
Meanwhile, according to a recent assessment, China’s distant-water fishing raises severe worries throughout the world, owing to the size of the Chinese fleet and its “illegal activity.”

The Environmental Justice Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in the United Kingdom, released a report in March that traces “China’s vast, opaque, and, at times, illegal global fisheries footprint,” primarily using data from China.
The Chinese prohibition reflects the extent to which environmental issues are being addressed. The number of Chinese distant-water fishing boats is unknown, but some estimate it to be around 2,700.

According to the research, China is responsible for 38% of the distant-water fishing operations of the world’s ten largest fleets in other nations’ waters.

The report’s authors discovered “high occurrences of illicit, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, damaging practises such as bottom trawling, and the use of coerced, bonded, and slave labour, as well as trafficking crew, as well as pervasive exploitation of migrant crewmembers.