As promised over the weekend, an extensive fleet of Chinese fishing vessels has started working the waters around the disputed Nansha Islands in the South China Sea -- and they've brought along a crew from the country's state broadcaster to document the excursion.
The fleet of 30 vessels, which includes a 3,000-tonne supply ship and consist of six teams with 550 fishmen, is the largest fleet ever to visit the islands, according to a China Central Television report broadcast on Monday. The fleet was 'organized voluntarily by the fisherman' and is being escorted by a vessel belonging to China's Fishery Administration, the Yuzheng-310, which is there to 'protect their fishing,' CCTV said in a separate report.
The Nansha Islands, known outside China as the Spratly Islands, lie in resource-rich waters between Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all claim sovereignty over parts of the archipelago.
Images provided by CCTV show fisherman waving as the fleet departs from the city of Sanya, on the island province of Hainan, and later cleaning out flash-freeze rooms in preparation for the catch. One report, broadcast on CCTV's News 1+1 program, features sweeping shots of the fleet set to rousing music:
'Going to Nansha is dangerous,' CCTV quoted fisherman Liang Yapai, one of the leaders of the fleet, as saying in the News 1+1 report. 'First, there's typhoons. Then there's harassment from foreign boats. So people don't dare go. Before, it was rare to go.'
The fleet sailed for 78 hours before arriving to fish waters near the Yongshu Reef, according to the website of China's state-run Xinhua News Agency.
The waters around three islands are rich with fish, with potential catch of up to 5 million metric tons every year, the state-run China Daily said.
China announced the launch of as foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations were in meetings in Phnom Penh that included U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. The talks ended in failure the following day amid disagreements over how directly to confront China over its territorial claims in the South China Sea.
China's Internet users appeared strongly in favor of the fishing expedition on Tuesday, with some saying the fleet should have been even larger. 'They say this is the biggest fleet. I don't think it's big enough,' wrote one user of Sina Corp.'s Weibo microblogging service posting under the name of Xiaoyao Mu. 'China has so many fishermen -- we should make this sort of collectivized fishing a regular thing in the South China Sea. The government should subsidize the fishermen for doing this. It is not simply about fishing, it is to safeguard our sovereignty.'
'Let's go fishing in Nansha!' wrote another Weibo user, echoing the headline of one of CCTV's reports on the expedition. 'If we cannot win out over small countries like Vietnam or the Philippines, we should shut up forever.'
正如上周末事先宣布的，一个规模庞大的中国渔船编队开始在南中国海(South China Sea, 中国称南海)的争议岛屿南沙群岛附近海域进行作业，它们还带上了中国国家电视台的摄制组来记录此次出海捕捞作业行动。
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