South Korea is emplacing a series of artificial reefs along its northwestern maritime boundary which are designed to foul the nets of trespassing Chinese fishing boats.
Photos show the emplacements are large rectangular steel structures with a conical tower on top. The South Korean government suggests that they weigh as much as 30 tons each.
The project has been planned since March, when the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries announced its intention to place artificial reefs near the Northern Limit Line, the line of demarcation in the Yellow Sea between North and South Korea, which dates back to the Korean War. The original scope of work called for 16 reefs, but the government has increased the budget to allow for another 60 structures which are to be installed in September and November. The total cost is $7 million.
North Korean state media has objected to the new structures. "The fish-breeding reef . . . is being set up in sensitive waters which witnessned three skirmishes in the past," said the Korean Central News Agency. North Korea does not accept the validity of the Northern Limit Line; South Korean and North Korean patrol boats clashed at the line in 1999 and again in 2002, with fatalities on both sides.
However, in recent years, the conflict has centered on fishing rights: regular incursions by Chinese fishing boats have raised tensions with Korean fishermen, and catch numbers for lucrative species have been falling. South Korea's Navy and Coast Guard have begun patrols in concert with the UN Command (the joint military command of U.S. and South Korean forces), and South Korea has lodged diplomatic protests with China seeking help curbing the influx of Chinese boats.
In June, South Korean fishermen took matters into their own hands and captured two Chinese vessels for authorities to retrieve.
The South Korean reefing program is not the only new, assertive means of combating the rising problem of illegal fishing in sovereign waters: Argentina has opened fire on Chinese fishing vessels in its EEZ, and Indonesia has taken to impounding and blowing up large numbers of trespassing boats.