BEIJING, May 16 (UPI) -- China Thursday announced the start of its annual 10-week fishing ban "in most parts of the South China Sea" for rehabilitating marine resources.
"Foreign boats will also be strictly banned from fishing in the area during the period," China Daily quoted Wu Zhuang, director of the South China Seas Fishery Bureau under the Ministry of Agriculture, as saying.
China claims sovereignty over much of the sea, which has become a source of concern among its smaller neighbors, some of which also have overlapping claims.
Last year, China's fishing ban was not recognized by some of these countries as they said it extended into their territorial waters.
In Thursday's announcement, Chinese fishery authorities said the marine and fishing department in the Hainan Island province had moored 9,007 locally registered fishing vessels, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The report said the fishing ban, which has been in place since 1999, will last through Aug. 1 this year, covering areas north of the 12th parallel, including Huangyan Island but excluding most of the Nansha Islands. Provincial fishing authorities said fishing vessels with Nansha Islands fishing permits will not be affected by the ban.
The Nansha Islands are Chinese names for part of the disputed islands that include the Spratlys in the South China, which are also claimed by Vietnam.
Wu said fishing equipment will be confiscated and fishermen will be expelled if foreign boats are found fishing in the area.
"In the past, we have found some foreign boats entering the region to fish during the period of the ban. We will strengthen monitoring efforts to prevent any foreign boats from entering the area," Wu said.