A heated debate has been triggered over Chinese ships fishing in Iran’s territorial waters.
While the deputy head of the Iranian Fisheries Organization, Shapour Kashkooli, has rejected claims that the organization has issued long-term licenses to Chinese fishermen to work in the Persian Gulf waters, deputy of Iran’s Ports & Maritime Organization (PMO) insists that, based on long-term permits, Chinese vessels are authorized to fish in Iranian waters.
“Chinese ships are legally permitted to fish at a depth of 200 meters (656 feet) in Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf,” PMO’s deputy, Mohammad Ali Hassanzadeh told IRGC-run Tasnim news agency, Saturday, August 18.
Hours later, Tasnim cited deputy head of the Iranian Fisheries Organization, Shapoor Kashkooli as saying, “The Iranian Fisheries Organization has not issued a license to the Chinese to catch fish (in Iranian waters).”
The Chinese nationals present in Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf work for Iranian ships, he added.
The official further said that Iranian fishermen have rented Chinese ships or purchased them on installment plans, adding that these ships and their crew are hired but Iranian companies own the fish caught in the waters, Tasnim reported.
Nevertheless, several news outlets in Iran have repeatedly reported that the Chinese vessels are involved in excessive fishing operation in the Persian Gulf waters.
A member of the Supreme Council of Provinces in Iran has also lamented that overfishing by Chinese ships in waters off the southern Iranian coasts in the Persian Gulf has put seafood resources at risk.
“Excessive fishing by huge and industrial Chinese ships (in the Persian Gulf) has endangered species of aquatic animals,” state-run Iran Students News Agency, ISNA, quoted Kianoush Jahanbakhsh as saying, on August 10.
“What I am saying is what Iranian fishermen, locals and eyewitnesses (in Hormozgan province) say.”
He insisted that this has affected local fishermen's livelihoods.
Meanwhile, city of Bandar Abbas (Hormozgan province) representative to parliament, Ahmad Moradi said, “Overfishing by Chinese vessels in Iran's southern waters has enraged local fishermen whose livelihoods have been affected by the practice.”
Industrial vessels must not be authorized to fish in Iranian territorial waters, pro-President Rouhani MP added.
Furthermore, Moradi accused unidentified individuals of using legal loopholes and profiteering through arranging excessive fishing by Chinese vessels.
“Traditional fishermen have no way to make a living other than fishing, but industrial ships disrupt local fishermen's economic situation by catching small and big fish”, Bandar Abbas’ MP affirmed.
Reacting to the news, another compared fishing licenses with the recent controversial Convention inked by Iran and four other littoral countries of the Caspian Sea.
Pro-reform MP, Bahram Parsaei sarcastically twitted, “While we were expecting the Caspian Sea Convention to be presented to parliament, we received the news that Iran’s share in Sea of Oman has also been let to Chinese fishing vessels for long term.”
Furthermore, Parsaei lamented, “I do not know whether to mourn [the death of] Articles 77 and 78 of the Constitution or be ashamed of facing fishermen whose nets and dining tables are empty and are mortified in front of their families.”
The Articles Parsaei has referred to stipulate: “International treaties, protocols, contracts, and agreements must be approved by the Islamic Consultative Assembly; as well as; All changes in the boundaries of the country are forbidden, with the exception of minor amendments in keeping with the interests of the country, on condition that they are not unilateral, do not encroach on the independence and territorial integrity of the country, and receive the approval of four-fifths of the total members of the Islamic Consultative Assembly.”