TSUSHIMA, Nagasaki Pref. — A small fishing boat from South Korea sat tied to a Japan Coast Guard patrol boat last week at Izuhara port in the Tsushima Islands.
|A South Korean fishing boat that allegedly invaded Japan’s fishing zone is tied to a Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel at Izuhara port at Tsushima Island.|
The patrol vessel Akigumo had three remarkable holes in its side, resulting from the 149-ton ship repeatedly banging into the 10-ton South Korean boat in a desperate chase Wednesday that started on the edge of Japan’s exclusive economic zone north of Tsushima, according to coast guard officials.
The chase, which lasted for 90 minutes, ended when two coast guard officials managed to jump onto the boat and arrested the captain on suspicion of trespassing and fishing in the zone.
Despite the debut of new fishery pacts with South Korea in January 1999 and China last June, coast guard patrols continue around the Tsushima Islands, one of Japan’s best fishing spots. The islands are 49.5 km from Pusan, South Korea, and 130 km away from Fukuoka.
“A fast fishing boat can reach there in only 30 or 40 minutes from South Korea,” said Masaharu Yamashita, an official of the local coast guard unit.
Yamashita noted that the top speed of some recent poaching boats has increased from 40 knots to 60 knots, posing another challenge for the coast guard.
The two fishery pacts, aimed at preserving sea resources, have drawn a line in the middle of the sea between South Korea and Japan, marking one of the borders of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
This means the local coast guard has the power to arrest foreign poachers in the zone. Previously, it could only crack down on poachers in territorial waters, which extend 12 nautical miles from the coasts.
Poachers are no longer found in Japan’s territorial waters, but have moved too near the economic zone line, Yamashita said.
The Tsushima coast guard unit captured eight boats engaged in poaching in 1996, 13 in 1997 and five in 1998. This increased to 12 in 1999, when the South Korean pact took effect, and 18 the following year, when the China pact took effect.
“They often operate near the border of the EEZ so they can quickly run away into the exclusive zone of South Korea,” Yamashita said.
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