Dispute Over Chinese Fishermen in Philippine Waters

A number of incidents are playing out involving Chinese fishermen operating in Philippine waters.  Most recently, on August 5, twelve Chinese fishermen arrested in April 2013 were sentenced to jail terms ranging from 6 to 12 years for illegal fishing.  Their boat had run aground on the World Heritage-listed Tubbataha Reef, which is not claimed by China, damaging the pristine dive spot.  The attorney for the fishermen indicated he would appeal the sentence on account of the grounding being an accident caused by bad weather.  The Philippine Coast Guard, however, said that hundreds of dead and frozen pangolins were seized from the Chinese fishing boat.  Pangolins are considered a delicacy with medicinal qualities and are hunted in parts of Asia.

In a separate incident on May 6, 2014, nine Chinese fishermen were detained near the disputed Spratly Islands at Half Moon Shoal in a far more contentious dispute, due to the location being a disputed part of the South China Sea.  The fishermen were holding hundreds of sea turtles, some under protection by Philippine wildlife laws.  Officials seized two vessels and brought poaching charges against the men.  China demanded that the fishermen be released and sent a maritime patrol vessel to the area.  A court on the westernmost island of Palawan is seeking to try the fisherman, but the proceedings have been delayed a number of times due to a number of factors.  They are reportedly set to stand trial in early September.