November 2003

Fishery Sector Strategies

The broad objective for marine capture fisheries of the Republic of Korea is to improve both the welfare of both fishermen and consumers through restructuring the management of the fishery resources in coastal and offshore waters.

Fishery Sector Methods

A number of policies, strategies and action programmes have been adopted by the government to facilitate structural adjustments in support of its goals of improving the welfare of both fishers and consumers. Actions include: (a) promoting a fishing fleet buy-back programme; (b) promoting culture-based fisheries (e.g. aquaculture) and fisheries resource enhancement efforts; (c) expanding the list of species within the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) system; (d) preventing marine pollution; and (e) strengthening law enforcement capacities and activities to control illegal fishing activities.

Fishery Sector Institutions

The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MOMAF) is the executive agency responsible for planning and implementing fisheries policy and overall fishery management. MOMAF has branches concerned with the management of fisheries resources (research, management and monitoring and enforcement services), namely:

  • National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI) providing research services;
  • Fisheries Administration Bureau and Fisheries Resource Bureau providing management services; and
  • Fisheries Resource Bureau, Fishing Vessels Management Office and National Marine Police Agency (NMPA) providing monitoring and enforcement services.

Of these branches, it is the Fisheries Resource Bureau that is responsible committed for the general affairs of fisheries resources management. The Fisheries Resource Bureau provides all main services involved in the management and enforcement of fisheries policies, except for research and development affairs.

The government has also started a fishermen-oriented co-management system for more effective implementation of responsible fisheries. Under this system, a fisher’s organization, such as a fishery corporation or a group of fishermen in a fishing village, has been set up by self-regulation according to the fishery-related laws and regulations, and with the endorsement of local government. In this way, a fishery is controlled. The fishermen-oriented co-management system is designed to enhance the sense of responsibility of the fishermen and to minimize illegal fishing.

Following the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992, a Korea-China Fishery Agreement was signed on 3 August 2000 and entered into force on 30 June the following year. As a result, Korea has bilateral fishery management regimes under the UNCLOS EEZ system with the neighbouring countries of China and Japan, but not North Korea. According to these bilateral agreements, only Chinese and Japanese vessels have access to the Korean EEZ on a reciprocal basis.

General Legal Framework

Laws, acts and regulations have been enacted to manage the fisheries resources and other resources that may relate to or affect fishery management. Some of these are listed and briefly described below.

Fisheries Act

The Act establishes the institutions responsible for enhancing and protecting fishery resources. It also strives for the development of fisheries and the democratization of the fishing industry by increasing productivity in fisheries through utilizing and managing waters in a comprehensive way.

Fishery Resources Protection Act (Act No. 298, Dec. 12, 1953)

The Act regulates the exploitation of fishery resources through the provision of requirements such as obtaining licenses.

Framework Act on Marine Development (Act No. 3983, Dec. 4, 1987)

The Act contributes to the development of the national economy and the improvement of national welfare through providing direction for government policy found necessary for the rational development, utilization and preservation of the sea and marine resources.

Act on the Exercise of Sovereign Rights on Foreigners Fishing, etc., within the Exclusive Economic Zone (Act No. 5152, Aug. 8, 1996)

This Act contributes to the conservation, management, and utilization of living marine resources. It also generally aims to provide for the exercise of sovereign rights by the Republic of Korea in relation to fishing activities (amongst other activities) conducted by foreigners in the EEZ of the Republic of Korea, as governed by the relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Inland Waters Fisheries Development Act, 1975

The Act promotes the comprehensive development of inland water fisheries and also provides for the protection and cultivation of marine resources. This legislation supports improved incomes for farmers and fishermen.

Inspection of Fishery Products Act

The Act promotes the qualitative improvement and standardization of fishery products through inspection.

Wetland Conservation Act 1999

The Act conserves wetlands and their biological diversity by providing for the efficient conservation and management of these areas. It also aims to contribute to international cooperation by adopting the purpose of the International Convention on Wetlands.

Prevention of Marine Pollution Act

This Act seeks to protect the health and property of people by preserving the marine environment through the regulation of pollution from oil, harmful liquid substances and wastes discharged into the sea from ships, marine installations, etc., and the removal of marine pollutants.

Marine Transport Act

The purpose of this Act is to contribute to the development of the national economy and to provide for public welfare by maintaining order in maritime transport, securing fair competition in the maritime industry and to promote development of business in maritime transport.

Sea Traffic Safety Act (Act No. 3909, Dec. 31. 1986)

The Act prescribes qualifications needed by individuals if they are to serve onboard vessels as ‘ship’s personnel’, thereby promoting safe navigation. This Act is also known as the Ship Personnel Act.

Ship Act

The Act ensures proper operation of systems for maritime affairs and the maintenance of maritime order. It also provides for matters necessary for the enforcement of the 1969 International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships and other matters necessary for size measurement of ships.

Ship Safety Act

The Act requires that vessels maintain certain standards for seaworthiness. It also provides regulations that require vessels be furnished with certain facilities necessary for ensuring the security of human life and property.

Pilotage Act

The Act promotes the navigational safety of ships and contributes to the efficient operation of ports through the regulation of the licensing of pilots and pilotage in a particular piloting area.

Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage Guarantee Act (Act No. 4532, Dec. 8, 1992)

The Act provides for compensation in the event of damage caused by oil escaping or being discharged from a vessel.

Public Order in Open Ports Act

The Act maintains the safety and public order of shipping traffic within the boundaries of an open port.

Harbour Act

The Act contributes to the development of the national economy by promoting the construction of harbours. It also aims to ensure the efficiency in the management and operation of harbours by means of regulating the designation, development, management and utilization of harbours.

Harbour Transports Business Act (Act No. 1404, Sep. 19, 1963)

The Act establishes order concerning harbour transport and promotes public welfare through the sound development of harbour transport business.

Marine Accidents Inquiry Act (Act No. 2306, Jan. 22, 1971)

The Act establishes Marine Accidents Inquiry Agencies with the authority to identify causes of marine accidents and to sanction those responsible for marine accidents. In general, it aims to prevent marine accidents.

Marine Scientific Research Act (Act No. 4941, Jan. 5, 1995)

The Act prescribes the procedures necessary for conducting marine scientific research by any foreign or international organization. It strives to develop marine science and marine technology through the efficient management and publication of research data.

Seaman Act

The Act sets conditions for maintaining order on a ship, to guarantee certain working standards and conditions for seamen, to establish duties and disciplines, education and navigational exercises to be undertaken by seamen.

Description of Fishery Management Systems

The system of marine capture fisheries management in the Republic of Korea can be seen in the following:

The fishery management system involves mainly input control and technical measures. Input controls includes Limited Licenses (which restrict the number of fishing units), and Gear and Vessel Restrictions (which restrict the size and other dimensions of each fishing unit). Technical measures include Size and Sex Selectivity measures and Time and Area Closures.

The management measures are based on the Fishery Act (amended in December 1995) together with many related acts and regulations, as well as on the Resource Protection Decree. According to the Fishery Act, MOMAF is largely responsible for fishing vessels in offshore and distant waters and foreign-flagged vessels fishing within the Korean EEZ, while local governments at province, city and district levels are mainly responsible for fishing licenses of vessels in the coastal area. Fisheries resources have been protected mainly through governing the mesh size of fishing nets, delimiting fishing grounds, applying closed seasons, etc. In 2001, TACs were set for 7 species after an experimental period in 1999–2000.

Two levels of government, namely the central authority (MOMAF) and local governments at province, city and district level, are involved in fisheries development and management. Laws relating to fisheries and fishery resource protection, and legislation relating to the EEZ provide the legal framework for the management of the fishery sector and protection of fishery resources. During the past 50 years, fishery resources have been protected mainly through regulations governing mesh size, fishing ground, fishing seasons, and so on. Despite management efforts to control production methods and inputs, the steady decline in fishery resources in coastal waters, and particualrly economically important species such as the yellow croaker and the hair-tail, demands much stronger management control of fisheries resources than ever before. As implementation of Article 61 of the U.N. Law of the Sea (LOSC) is inevitable, the government amended national rules and regulations in order to facilitate the application of TAC from 1997.

To this end, the Government has declared sovereign rights in the Korean EEZ (announced in August 1996), the enforcement of Korean sovereign rights (announced in August 1997) and rules for the enforcement of Korean sovereign rights (announced in January 1998). This law covers all regulations relating to the monitoring and controlling of foreign fishing vessels, special rules relating to keeping fishing orders, and supervision and surveillance of foreign fishing vessels. The enforcement legislation and regulations deal with: establishment of special zones where fishing by foreign vessels is prohibited; assessment of collateral and methods of payment; fishing permit and approval of experimental research, including application procedures; and punishment for fishing vessels that violate fishing rules and regulations.

Performance of the fishery sector has made impressive progress. Reported catches from the coastal, offshore, distant waters and inland capture fisheries were 1 847 409 tonne (valued at W 3 791 billion) in 2000, and 1 997 126 t (W 3 721 billion) in 2001. The main factor for increased capture production was the increase in mackerels, anchovy and Alaska pollock. In particular, Alaska pollack production in North Pacific Russian waters in 2001 reached approximately 199 123 t, up from 86 066 t in 2000.

Production from coastal and inshore fisheries was 1 252 098 t in 2001, an increase of 5.3% over 2000. Major species caught were hair-tail, mackerel, anchovy, squid, horse mackerel and blue crab. In particular, mackerel production increased by 40%, from 145 908 t in 2000 to 203 717 t in 2001, and anchovy catches grew by 36%, from 201 192 t in 2000 to 273 927 t in 2001.

Production from distant water fisheries accounted for 739 057 t in 2001, an increase of 87 790 t over 2000. The increase in production was due to a drastic increase in the Alaskan pollack catch, at 113 057 t. The major species in distant water fisheries were saury, tuna, Alaska pollack, croaker and squid.

The fisher population has continuously dropped since 1982. The number of fisheries households has also dropped, from 97 754 in 1999 to 93 533 in 2002. In 2002, 60.2% of fishery households had powered fishing boats and 39.6% had non-powered boats. Households active in the aquaculture sector also decreased slightly, from 32 360 in 1999 to 31 910 in 2002.

The number of fishing vessels decreased by 955, from 95 890 vessels (923 099 GRT) in 2000 to 94 935 vessels (884 853 GRT) in 2001. The decrease in number and gross tonnage was one result of the government’s fleet reduction programme, i.e the buy-back programme.

Investment and Subsidies in Fisheries

The Korean government established 10 major investment policy sectors, with a total investment budget in 1995 of US$ 815 million (rate of exchange: US$ 1 = W 771.2), distributed as shown in Table 1.

Table 1.  Major sectors in the Government of the Republic of Korea fisheries investment programme

Fisheries policy sector

Investment (US$ millions)

Fishing ground conservation and management


Fishery resources enhancement


Fisheries guidance and regulation


Fishing port construction


Fisheries facilities


Marketing and distribution facilities


Deep-sea fisheries development


Fishermen welfare subsidy


Fishing community development


Fisheries technical development




Fisheries management in Korea primarily involves support or subsidies for:

·          research and education;

·          fisheries infrastructure and environment enhancement;

·          fisheries resources enhancement;

·          aquaculture development;

·          renewal and modernization of vessels;

·          support for crew insurance;

·          payment for fishing fleet reduction; and

·          other cost reducing transfers.

The government support for such fishery management activities are shown in Table 2.

Table 2.  Government support to fishery management activities, 1999–2001

Cost Items

Cost (W billion)




(A) Direct Payments, of which




payments for fishing fleet reduction




support for crew insurance




(B) Cost Reduction Transfers, including




renewal and modernization of vessels




aquaculture development




other cost reducing transfers




(C) General Services, including




fisheries resources enhancement




fisheries infrastructure and environment enhancement




research and education








Total transfers in 2001 amounted to W 550 billion, an increase of W 192.7 billion over 2000; a major element in that increase was the increased payments associated with the fishing fleet reduction programme. Most of the transfers in 2001 were used for fishing fleet reduction (W 260.2 billion, 47.3%), infrastructure and environment enhancement (W 177.2 billion, 32%), and resource enhancement (W 31.0 billion, 5.6%).

Revenues from fisheries totalled W 4 458.5 billion in 2000 and W 4 511.9 billion in 2001. The total government financial transfer constituted around 8.0% of the total revenue from fisheries landings in 2000, increasing to12.2% in 2001.

ProjectED Supply and Demand (up to 2005)

A continuing rise in personal income is expected to boost per capita demand for fresh fish further, to 60 kg/yr in 2010, when the total annual demand for food fish could be as high as 3 million tonne. Taking into account non-food needs and the country’s increasing export trade in fish and fishery products, a total supply requirement of around 3.9 million tonne can be envisaged. The Republic of Korea is currently liberalizing its trade regulations on fishery products, which could result in significant increase in imports in the future. To enhance catches from coastal and offshore waters, the government has given priority to constructing artificial reefs and releasing fish fingerlings to increase or replenish fish stocks. An anticipated increase in aquaculture production could also help meet the national demand for fish.