The seasonal fishing ban in China came into force on 1 May 2022. Similar to the increase in fishing traffic seen in the period before the start of the ban, the number of fishing boats is expected to increase significantly once the ban comes to an end. As some illegal fishing activities may still continue in some areas during the ban, ship operators and masters are advised to take additional precautions when planning a voyage to and from Chinese ports during this period.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China regularly issues circulars to clarify the period of the fishing ban for the four sea areas along the coastal waters of China; the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea. The 2021 notice is still valid and applicable. The fishing ban lasts from three and a half months to four and a half months depending on the sea area. It is worth noting that in addition to stipulating the applicable area and time, the notice also sets out the types of fishing operations covered by the ban.
Previous experience suggests that the number of fishing vessels in Chinese waters increases significantly in the period leading up to the start of the fishing ban and immediately after the ban ends in each sea area. Moreover, illegal fishing activities may continue in some areas during the fishing ban season, especially in the first part of the period.
In 2021, China MSA issued safety guidelines for the prevention of collisions between merchant vessels and fishing vessels in Chinese Coastal Waters. The guidelines also recommend that every crew member engaged in navigational watchkeeping duty in these areas should be familiar with their contents. The guidelines provide practical guidance on navigation method, collision avoidance and emergency rescue. In particular, specific recommendations are given to merchant vessels before entering areas with high concentration of fishing vessels and when navigating through such areas.
Additional information on key characteristics of fishing areas and frequency of collisions, as well as recommendations on how to avoid incidents with fishing vessels in Chinese waters, are also outlined in our alert Expected rise in the number of fishing vessels in Chinese waters - Update. Our key recommendations are reiterated below:
If a collision occurs, or is suspected to have occurred, the master and crew must render all possible assistance to the fishing vessel and contact the nearest VTS/MRCC via VHF or by calling the emergency telephone number (12395). We also stress the importance of maintaining a record of all evidence, including VDR data.