SEOUL, July 4 (Korea Bizwire) – The South Korean government has decided to install a total of 80 new artificial reefs near the Yellow Sea border with North Korea to help thwart illegal fishing by Chinese boats, the finance ministry said Monday.
Under the plan, approved in a Cabinet meeting, the vast underwater structures, weighing as much as 30 tons apiece, will be established close to the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a de-facto inter-Korean sea border, at a cost of 8 billion won (US$7 million).
Specific zones will be decided in consultations between South Korean fishermen and related authorities including the defense ministry.
It’s aimed at curbing Chinese fishermen’s dragnet-style operations prevalent in the waters near the high-tension inter-Korean maritime border.
The government initially planned to set up 16 artificial reefs, worth 2 billion.
They are apparently taking advantage of tensions between the two Koreas, as the South’s Coast Guard is reluctant to be active in cracking down on Chinese ships near the NLL, which may trigger an accidental clash with the North.
The decision to expand the budget from reserve funds for the campaign came amid a growing sense of urgency to combat illegal Chinese fishing ships trespassing into Korean waters and sweeping fisheries.
This year’s peak-season crab catch by South Korean fishermen dropped about 70 percent from a year ago, according to government data.
In June, local fishermen towed away two Chinese fishing boats catching crabs just south of the NLL and handed them over to South Korean authorities, a show of their uproar over the problem.