Coral poacher freed after China vows to pay fine

Kyodo

The Japan Coast Guard has freed the skipper of a Chinese coral fishing boat who was arrested Saturday for illegally operating in Japan’s exclusive economic zone near Okinawa’s Miyako Island.

The coast guard decided Sunday to release the 63-year-old captain, Xue Changlong, after he owned up to the poaching and the Chinese Consulate General in the city of Fukuoka guaranteed payment of the ¥4 million penalty for infringing on the Japan’s fisheries sovereignty law.

Xue admitted operating in Japan’s EEZ about 46 km east-northeast of Miyako Island at around 7:45 a.m. Saturday without permission. The captain of the boat, about 100 tons in size, was with 12 others who also identified themselves as Chinese. Corals were found aboard the vessel.

It was the first time since September 2010 that the skipper of a Chinese vessel has been arrested for suspected illegal fishing in waters overseen by the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Naha, Okinawa, according to the officials.

The 2010 arrest took place after a Chinese fishing boat collided with Japan Coast Guard vessels trying to shoo it away from around the Senkaku Islands. The incident significantly worsened ties between Tokyo and Beijing.