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Coral poaching violates Japan's sovereignty

November 12, 2014

Stiffer penalties and higher guarantee deposits after coral poaching by Chinese ships

Since mid-September, Chinese ships have been violating Japan's territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to poach coral in the waters off the Ogasawara islands. As of November 12, 117 ships have been confirmed (see table below). This is clearly a violation of Japanese sovereignty that the government must deal with in the strictest possible manner. The Party will work together with the government to ensure that policies and measures are effective.

The Party's Fisheries Division (Director: Ichiro Tsukada, member of the House of Councillors) met on November 12 to approve bills that would amend the "Act on Regulation of Fishing Operation by Foreign Nationals" and "Act on the Exercise of the Sovereign Right for Fishery, etc. in the Exclusive Economic Zone" to strengthen the penalties for poaching by foreign ships.
Both will come before the Diet as legislation introduced by Diet members.

The Act on Regulation of Fishing Operation by Foreign Nationals provides for incarceration of up to three years or a fine of up to 4 million yen for illegal operations within territorial waters. The Act on the Exercise of the Sovereign Right for Fishery, etc. in the Exclusive Economic Zone provides for a fine of up to 10 million yen for unlicensed operations within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The amendments would stiffen penalties by raising the maximum fine to 30 million yen.

Penalties would also be stiffened for refusal to allow boarding and inspection by the Japan Coast Guard. The current penalties, which come under the Fishery Act, provide for incarceration of up to six months or a fine of up to 300,000 yen for violators.
These penalties, however, also apply to Japanese nationals, so penalty provisions were added in the proposed amendments to the laws on foreign ships. Violations within territorial waters will be subject to incarceration of up to 6 months or a fine of up to 3 million yen. Within the EEZ, the fine is up to 3 million yen.

While not requiring an amendment, the amount of cash collateral to be posted for the release of a captain who has been arrested within the EEZ will be increased to 30 million yen, and if poached coral is found on the ship, and additional 6 million yen per kilogram will be required.

In addition to the Fisheries Division, the stiffer penalties and cash collateral were also approved by the Foreign Affairs Division (Director: Kenya Akiba, member of the House of Representatives), Land, Infrastructure and Transport Division (Director: Manabu Sakai, member of the House of Representatives), and National Defense Division (Director: Masahisa Sato, House of Councillors) in a joint meeting on the 6th, and submitted to the government at that time.

Yukimi Sasaki, President of the Ogasawara Hahajima Fishing Cooperative, attended the meeting. He said, "How long is this going to continue? To be frank, we cannot put up with this any longer. We want things back to normal as quickly as possible." Director Tsukada commented that "it is of crucial importance for these bills to be passed as quickly as possible," and indicated his commitment to seeing the legislation through the Diet.

Meanwhile, the Party's Special Committee on Space and Ocean Development (Chairperson: Takeo Kawamura, member of the House of Representatives) has established a "Task Force to Enhance Legislation Protecting Fishing, Resources and the Environment in Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) and Territorial Waters" (Chairperson: Ichita Yamamoto, member of the House of Representatives). The first meeting was held on November 13.

The purpose of the task force is to use the poaching of coral as an opportunity to study comprehensive legislation to protect Japanese fishing, marine resources, and the environment. The first meeting heard explanations from ministries and agencies about relevant legislation in Japan, China, and Korea, and current enforcement of Japanese laws against coral poaching.

Chairperson Kawamura said in his opening comments, "Many have made the point that we need to discuss how our legislation is structured and how it works, and we believe it is urgent to do so. This must be a party-wide initiative." Chairperson Yamamoto said, "Poaching is outrageous. The Party needs to send a message by creating systems and structures that vigorously combat it." The task force will work in close coordination with other relevant party organizations to move the discussions forward, he indicated.


Visual confirmation of Chinese fishing ships
September 1517 shipsOctober 26102 ships
September 2325 shipsOctober 30212 ships
October 142 shipsNovember 3205 ships
October 1346 shipsNovember 7191 ships
October 1431 shipsNovember 8192 ships
October 2024 shipsNovember 10141 ships
October 2151 shipsNovember 12117 ships
October 23113 ships  
(Created from Japan Coast Guard materials)
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