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At U.N. Sea-Bed Committee

Superpowers’ Plunder of Fishing Resources Opposed

[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #32, Aug. 11, 1972, pp. 14-15.]

Following are excerpts from the speech of Chinese Representative Chen Chih-fang to the United Nations Sea-Bed Committee on fishery at the meeting of Sub-Committee Two on July 21. Title and subheads are ours.

REPRESENTATIVE Chen Chih-fang said, “The Chinese Delegation has studied the statements made by the representatives of various countries at sessions of the Sea-Bed Committee. The representatives of many developing and other small and medium-sized countries have stated the determination to safeguard their state sovereignty and national interests, expressed dissatisfaction with the superpowers and another distant-water fishing power for their current practice of plundering fishery resources everywhere and expressed resolute opposition to the maritime hegemony of the superpowers. The Chinese Delegation fully supports these just propositions and would like to explain its own position on some of the questions concerning the development of sea fishery.”

Some Distant Fishing Powers Dominate the Seas

In the past few years, he recalled, “70-80 per cent of the total annual catch of these powers was that made in distant oceans, while the annual catch of some developing countries has been on the decrease year by year. Owing to the fact that these distant fishing powers disregard the interests of coastal states and sometimes concentrate their fishing fleets in one area for intensive catches, serious damage has been caused to the fishery resources. For instance, the resources of herring, cod and haddock in the northern Atlantic and the northern Pacific have drastically decreased, and those of some fishes are almost exhausted.

“Sea fish resources are an important component of the natural resources of coastal states. And the shallow sea waters along the coasts are important places for the main sea fishes to spawn, feed and hibernate. At present, more than 80 per cent of the world’s total catch is made in the shallow sea waters, which comprise only 7.8 per cent of the total sea area on the globe. The domination of the few distant fishing powers over the seas and their reckless plunder of fishery resources in the shallow sea waters of other coastal states have already caused tremendous damage and posed a serious threat to the economic interests and state sovereignty of many coastal states, particularly those in Asia, Africa and Latin America.”

It Is Natural and Right for Coastal States To Protect Fishery Resources

“In the face of this grave situation, it is only natural and right for the coastal states to adopt necessary and pertinent measures to protect their fishery resources. The Chinese Delegation supports the coastal states, and particularly the developing states, in their just struggle to develop their national economy, safeguard state sovereignty and oppose the superpowers’ plunder of sea fishery resources. We hold that the coastal states have every right to delimit, according to their geographical conditions and in the light of the needs of their national economic interests, certain economic zones beyond their territorial seas, so as to protect their fishery resources,” the Chinese representative stressed.

On the question of other countries coming to the sea area adjacent to a coastal state for fishing, he said: “We hold that a reasonable solution should be sought through negotiations between the coastal state and the country or countries concerned on the precondition of non-encroachment on the sovereignty of the coastal state. We are deeply convinced that the coastal states are fully capable of protecting and rationally exploiting the fishery resources in their own economic zones. Some people assert that fish can perish, hence it would be a waste of resources if no one makes catches, and use this assertion as a theoretical basis for their plunder of fishery resources everywhere. This is done with ulterior motives and is extremely absurd.”

Refute Superpowers’ Fallacies

The Chinese representative further pointed out that the distant fishing powers cannot but admit in words that the coastal states have certain preferential fishing rights beyond the limit of 12 nautical miles, but at the same time they are trying to impose all sorts of restrictions, saying for instance that the preferential fishing rights “must be consistent with the objective of conservation” and “should not be misused.” He said: “As everyone knows, the great majority of the Asian, African and Latin American countries have been subjected to bullying and oppression by imperialism over a long period of time, their productive forces have been seriously damaged and to this day their fishing techniques and capabilities still lag far behind those of the distant fishing powers. It is these distant fishing powers that are plundering and damaging the fishery resources in a big way; and it is they which have the responsibility to keep the fish resources from being damaged. So long as these distant fishing powers do not act wantonly in making catches, the fishery resources can be protected. It is they themselves which have brought damage to the fishery resources, yet they now show concern lest the coastal states would abuse the preferential fishing rights and leave the fishery resources unprotected. This is nothing but an attempt to shirk responsibility for their guilt and divert people’s attention.”

“Today, large numbers of Asian, African and Latin American coastal states and other small and medium-sized countries are direct victims of maritime hegemony. A glaring fact is that fleets of the distant fishing powers are barging against the gates of other countries and wantonly plundering sea fishery resources under the latter’s noses. Yet they demand that the seas should be ‘open to harvest on a non-discriminatory basis’ by their fishermen, as if they were given discriminatory and unfair treatment by others. Isn’t this confounding right and wrong and trying to mislead the public?” Chen Chih-fang pointed out.

“To dominate the seas and oceans, the two superpowers are contending and colluding with each other at the same time. On the question of delimiting fishing areas or economic zones, they have been working hand in glove. One of the superpowers asserts: ‘We do not consider it appropriate to define broad fishing areas or economic zones.’ The other says even more bluntly that it will continue its ‘opposition to unilateral claims of fisheries jurisdiction beyond the recognized 12-mile fisheries zone....’ This fully shows up their wild attempt to realize their proposition of ‘maximum high seas and minimum territorial seas,’ so that they may make use of the so-called ‘freedom of the high seas’ to push maritime hegemony, encroach upon the sovereignty of other countries and plunder their fishery resources.”

Soviet Draft Puts Cart Before Horse

On the draft articles on fishing put forward recently by the Government of the U.S.S.R., the Chinese representative declared, “Far from placing restrictions on the distant fishing powers, this draft tries to place restrictions on the catches of coastal states in the areas adjacent to their territorial seas. This is putting the cart before the horse and attempting to create a legal ground for it to plunder the fishery resources of other countries.”

“According to the provisions of the Soviet draft,” he continued, “coastal states can only record the illegal activities of foreign fishing vessels which plunder everywhere the fishery resources of other countries, but have no right to punish them. Only the flag states can handle the cases and punish these vessels. This is even more arbitrary and unreasonable. As is known to all, some Latin American countries have arrested and fined U.S. fishing vessels which intruded into their territorial seas for illegal fishing, while the U.S. Government encourages the piratical acts of these fishing vessels, pays the fines for them and threatens to stop its ‘aid’ to the countries concerned. Who can believe that the U.S. Government would handle the cases and punish the pirate fishing vessels on the basis of the records made by the victimized countries?”

He emphasized: “What is even more intolerable, the Soviet Government flagrantly states in its explanation of the above-mentioned draft articles that it would agree to the right of all nations to share the benefits of the exploitation of sea-bed resources under three conditions which are in effect as follows: (1) a unanimous resolution on fishery in conformity with the views of the Soviet Union must be adopted; (2) the breadth of territorial seas must not exceed 12 nautical miles; and (3) freedom of passage must be guaranteed through those straits which are used for international navigation. Assuming the posture of an overlord of the seas, the Soviet Government here lays down one condition after another to all countries of the world. It would not allow all nations to share the benefits of the sea-bed resources if they should not observe the conditions laid down by it—as if it were the owner of all the sea-bed resources of the world. This is really the height of impudence!”

The Affairs of the World Must Be Handled by
The Peoples of All Countries Together

The Chinese representative pointed out with emphasis: “Here, we deem it necessary to point out: The affairs of the world must be handled by the peoples of all countries together, and no superpower should be allowed to be the overlord. Whoever wants to be the world’s overlord will certainly meet with ignominious failure.”

“At present, the struggle of the developing countries in defence of their sea rights and against the maritime hegemony of the superpowers is rising vigorously. The Chinese people have become keenly aware through their long practice of revolutionary struggles that the independence of a country is incomplete without economic independence. Opposition to economic plunder and protection of national fishery resources by the developing countries are the inalienable sovereign rights of independent states. China will co-operate with all those countries that uphold justice and make joint efforts for a fair and reasonable solution of the maritime fishing problem,” the Chinese representative concluded.

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