Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and even the United States all battle over ownership in the South China Sea and everyday fishermen are caught in the struggle.
Shipping rights, military position and oil and gas reserves all play a part in the fight for use of the South China Sea by several countries. The stories read like action movie scripts with everything from crashing boats to piracy to battleship maneuvering.
While the tension rises and governments make their moves, fishermen are still trying to provide for their families with bait and hook.
Li Xianchuan has been fishing around these issues for the last several decades and recalls his latest incident. “It was very dangerous and scary, we had to run around the reefs to get away from big (Philippine) boats. Thanks to the shallow water and submerged reefs, their big boats could not enter the reefs. We played hide-and-seek inside the reef until their boats gave up and left.”
Fishermen are constantly fleeing from coast guard and military vessels looking to capture invaders or scare them off. This escalating tension has affected the fishery. The confusion over boundaries has led to an increased number of rogue boats as well.
“There’s a big difference compared with the business we had before,” he says. “My father has worked as a fisherman for about 40 years. The fishery resources were rich, and there were fewer fishing boats before. But now, the resources are thin and there are lots of boats.” Says Taiwanese fishermen Hong Huai-jen.
One fisherman says his income has dropped to around $63 a week because of the interruptions and increasing competition. Some of his prized quarry includes grouper, mackerel and trevally.
Natives claim old fishing rights that are no longer in effect and outlaws have made the sea their own personal bank robbery. Several fishermen are known to have even lost their lives over the fighting.
It’s easy to get down when fishing doesn’t quite go our way. We all want to have successful outings on the water. But at the end of the day we can be very thankful that at least when we’re fishing here in the states, we’re not looking over our shoulder for a gun boat trying to run us off of our honey hole.
Picture by Facebook/RickClune