People caught illegally fishing in Chinese waters could be jailed for up to a year, China's Supreme Court said on Tuesday. Those waters could be defined as China's exclusive economic zones.
Judicial interpretation was made in accordance with both Chinese law and the United Nations' Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Court said. This interpretation doesn’t mention The South China Sea in direct, but it’s probably the main cause of new ruling.
Last month the Hague arbitration court ruled China has no historic title over the waters of the South China Sea and that it has breached the Philippines' sovereign rights with its actions. The court also decided that none of China's reefs and holdings in the Spratly Islands entitled it to a 200-mile exclusive economic zone. Still Beijing didn’t accept the ruling.
The Supreme Court states that the newest decision was made in order to protect Chinese sovereignty. "Judicial power is an important component of national sovereignty," the Supreme Court said.
"People's courts will actively exercise jurisdiction over China's territorial waters, support administrative departments to legally perform maritime management duties ... and safeguard Chinese territorial sovereignty and maritime interests."
Jurisdictional seas covered by the interpretation include contiguous zones, exclusive economic zones and continental shelves, it added.
According to the Supreme Court, people will be considered to have committed "serious" criminal acts and could get up to a year in jail, if they illegally enter Chinese territorial waters and refuse to leave after being driven out, or who re-enter after being driven away or being fined in the past year.
"The explanation offers legal guarantees for marine fishing law enforcement," it added.
China have already detains fishermen from time to time, especially from the Philippines and Vietnam, and Chinese fishermen also occasionally get detained by other claimants in the South China Sea.