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China to lift seasonal fishing ban in East China Sea

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China to lift seasonal fishing ban in East China Sea

Chinese fishing boat in 2014
Photo: Reuters

Chinese fishermen are preparing to re-start fishing operations when China lifts its seasonal fishing ban on waters near Zhejiang Province today.

China holds an annual fishing moratorium in the Bohai Sea, Yellow Sea and East China Sea as a way to protect its fishery resources. However, the ban also fuels tensions with Japan, as both Beijing and Tokyo claim sovereignty over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. Each year, after the fishing ban is lifted, military-backed maritime militia fishing vessels swam the dispute islands.

Although the islands themselves are barren, the East China Sea is valuable because of its abundant fishing resources, proximity to important shipping lanes, and potential oil reserves. Both countries are among the world’s top importers of fossil fuels and fish.

Given China’s increasingly aggressive stance regarding other territorial interests like Hong Kong and the South China Sea, Japan is anticipating a record number of ship incursions this year and has issued directives to its military to respond to the intrusions. If China encourages fishing vessels to operate near the islands per usual, it is likely that the Japanese-Chinese dispute will escalate to direct, low-level clashes, potentially drawing a strong US military presence.

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