The Japan Coast Guard said Wednesday it hopes to bring back 150 former members in an effort to strengthen security measures in the country’s territorial waters amid a recent surge in the number of Chinese coral fishing boats near the Ogasawara Islands south of Tokyo.

“We are recruiting 150 work-ready, former personnel,” Yuji Sato, commandant of the Coast Guard, said at a news conference Wednesday.

The recruiting drive is for both officers and enlisted personnel.

“We need to shore up operational framework with quick impact for policing territorial waters” around Ogasawara, and the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, Sato said.

The Coast Guard began recruiting former officers and enlisted members in 2010, but it only resulted in the addition of around 30 personnel through 2013, an officer said.

“Every year, we have more than 100 officers and men who retire from work for their own reasons, which include marriage and caring for their parents,” the officer said. “We used to cover personnel shortages by bringing in new recruits in the next fiscal year. But we have to hurry on recruiting work-ready individuals in light of recent affairs in the Ogasawaras.”

If the recruitment drive is successful, the 150 former personnel are slated to go into the workforce starting in January, after completing a selection process that includes an interview and a medical checkup, according to the Coast Guard.

Sato also said Coast Guard aircraft Wednesday morning spotted 44 foreign boats, suspected to be Chinese, poaching coral near the Ogasawara chain. The Coast Guard counted 212 such vessels on Oct. 30, the most since mid-September when they were first spotted.

The Diet on Wednesday approved revised bills to raise the maximum fine to ¥30 million for poaching by foreign fishing crews in Japanese territorial waters and exclusive economic zones.

The maximum fine for poaching in Japanese territorial waters is currently ¥4 million, and ¥10 million for unauthorized fishing within Japan’s exclusive economic zones.

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