Japan wants China to cooperate in crackdown on coral poaching

Japan wants China to cooperate in crackdown on coral poaching
This photo taken in June 2004 shows precious coral. In the seas around Okinawa Prefecture, cases of illegal coral harvesting have been frequently reported.

To tackle an increasing number of coral poaching incidents by Chinese vessels in Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Tokyo will request Beijing to allow Japanese government vessels to control such unauthorized activities in the waters.

The government plans to request through diplomatic channels that China respond to Japan's call for talks to allow the Japanese maritime crackdown in the waters around Okinawa Prefecture, which is not currently permitted under a bilateral fisheries pact.

Coral harvesting, which is illegal under Chinese domestic legislation, also is restricted by Japanese law.

In the East China Sea between the main island of Okinawa and Miyakojima island, where the rare red coral known as precious coral can be found, Chinese ships operating out of ports in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces have often been spotted harvesting the coral illegally.

In November, the Japanese government confirmed a large-scale poaching operation by about 200 vessels. In many such cases, the poachers root up coral using trawling nets, which may eventually make the coral extinct.

In coastal waters around Japan, coral reefs are usually found growing in the shallows. Precious coral, however, is found only in the sea at a depth of more than 100 meters and grows only about 0.15 millimeters a year.

Precious coral, which sells for as much as ¥6 million per kilogram, is prized as jewelry, particularly in China.

The ocean area in question is located close to Japanese territorial waters and within Japan's EEZ. Therefore, in such waters, the Fisheries Agency and the Japan Coast Guard normally have the authority to crack down on suspicious vessels.

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