WeChat QR Code

Home>Events>>News & Events

China and Indonesia can find common ground over a shared interest: fishing

2020-01-16 10:55:16       source:NISCSS

January 15, 2020

Recently, Indonesia protested after it discovered Chinese fishing and coastguard vessels near its Natuna Islands, off the coast of Borneo – prompting China to say it had historic rights, including traditional fishing rights, near the Spratly Islands, which it claims despite competing assertions by nations including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.

There is no territorial dispute between China and Indonesia, but the latter’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) claim– the area extending 200 nautical miles (370km or 230 land-measured miles) from its coastline – overlaps with China’s claims in the South China Sea. China asserts rights such as territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, continental shelf and historic rights, being a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

For a long time, Chinese fishers have continuously carried out their activities in the sea’s southwestern fishing grounds, an area with a flat seabed, few reefs and shallow waters. At the same time, their country’s maritime forces have carried out activities for the protection of that fishing and for exercising the jurisdiction over waters that it claims.

But the two countries’ differences are not very prominent relative to the overall context of the complex and difficult disputes that continue to develop in the South China Sea, and have not caused significant interference in the overall bilateral relations and maritime cooperation between China and Indonesia.

The occurrence of fishery disputes between countries is relatively common, and these disagreements can normally be managed and resolved through dialogue and negotiation. If they cannot be resolved immediately, some cooperative transitional arrangements can be made for a certain degree of temporary mitigation of such disputes.

In fact, neither China nor Indonesia lacks experience of handling similar situations successfully, and there have been many cases in the region and internationally that can be used for reference.

The overall situation in the South China Sea has shown a trend towards greater stability, and the consultation over the proposed Code of Conduct in the South China Sea is being accelerated.

Last year, for instance, China and the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations completed a first reading of the text of that code, ahead of schedule.

Against that background, Indonesia and China can resolve the situation through dialogue, with the broader importance being the safeguarding of their relationship and the overall regional stability of Southeast Asia.

The negotiating should focus on making practical arrangements and promoting cooperation on the fisheries matters that affect both of them.

The two countries could share some fishery resources and exchange modern fisheries technology, alleviating pressure on their respective fishers.

China and Indonesia could also explore setting up a mechanism for enhanced governance and cooperation in the fishery industry, establish marine functional zones, and coordinate their administrative and law enforcement efforts in the zones according to their needs. They could agree to take some joint measures to ensure the conservation and protection of marine living resources.

Ding Duo is an associate research fellow at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in Hainan, China.


The NISCSS is authorized to re-publish this article on its website.