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Fishing Fleet Stranded by Deal
Thousands of Chinese fishing boats have been stranded by the implementation of the international fishing pacts signed between China and its neighbors.

Government chiefs have pledged to allocate 270 million yuan (US$32.5 million) a year to remove the boats from the country's fishing fleet and transfer at least 300,000 affected fishermen to other jobs, the Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday.

Implementation of the three fishing agreements China inked with Japan, the Republic of Korea and Viet Nam over the past two years has narrowed China's fishing area, driving thousands of fishermen off their traditional trawling grounds, Minister Du Qinglin said.

Ma Weijun, an official at the ministry's Fisheries Bureau, said that China had been committed to cutting the size of its fleet before the agreements were signed as over-fishing and pollution have caused stocks to plummet.

China had nearly a quarter million fishing boats in 2000 - more than four times as many as 20 years ago.

But the nation will take 6,000 fishing vessels out of operation each year for up to five years and transfer 60,000 offshore fishermen to new jobs, Du said.

Late last year the ministry estimated the number of fishermen being forced out of fishing areas at 200,000.

Under rules enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which China signed in 1996, all coastal nations are allowed jurisdiction over resources up to 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from their shores, according to Zhang Hecheng, vice-director of the bureau. China shares seas with all three countries, but there is less than 400 nautical miles between them, according to Zhang.

Du said China is a responsible country that honors its commitments and the country is carrying out the fishing pacts to maintain sound order on the seas.

Local governments should help offshore fishermen turn to aquaculture, encourage them to set up processing plants, and get involved in ocean fishing and non-fishing sectors, he said.

(Xinhua News Agency August 19, 2002)

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