• Kyodo

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The Japan Coast Guard arrested the skipper of a Chinese boat Sunday on suspicion of poaching coral in waters off the Ogasawara Islands south of Tokyo.

Xie Huawen, 52, is the ninth Chinese national arrested for alleged coral poaching since October, according to the 3rd Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Yokohama.

The coast guard said the Chinese vessel was operating illegally in Japanese territorial waters about 9 km south of Yomejima Island in the Ogasawara chain at around 2:50 a.m. Sunday. After a coast guard patrol ship issued a warning, the Chinese boat fled with the coast guard in hot pursuit. The vessel was eventually caught after a nearly 80-km chase that lasted more than five hours.

The arrest follows a recent surge in the number of Chinese coral fishing boats near the Ogasawaras. Red coral harvested from the waters fetches high prices in China, where demand for the valuable item is increasing as the purchasing power of Chinese consumers grows.

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