The Supreme People's Court (SPC) on Tuesday issued a regulation on judicial interpretation to clarify China's jurisdiction over its territorial seas.
The explanation provides a clear legal basis for China to protect the maritime order, marine safety and interests, and to exercise integrated management over the country's jurisdictional seas, Xinhua news agency reported citing an SPC statement.
The regulation, which takes effect on Tuesday, states that Chinese citizens or foreigners will be pursued for criminal liability if they engage in illegal hunting or fishing, or killing endangered wildlife in China's jurisdictional seas.
"Judicial power is an important component of national sovereignty," said the statement, adding, "People's courts will actively exercise jurisdiction over China's territorial waters, support administrative departments to legally perform maritime management duties, equally protect the legal rights of Chinese and foreign parties involved and safeguard Chinese territorial sovereignty and maritime interests."
The judicial explanation, based on Chinese law, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and judicial practices, further clarifies China's maritime jurisdiction, the statement said.
According to the regulation, jurisdictional seas not only include inland waters and territorial seas, but also cover regions including contiguous zones, exclusive economic zones and continental shelves.
The regulation also addresses Chinese citizens or organisations engaged in fishing in fishing zones or the open sea under co-management between China and other countries, according to signed agreements.
The interpretation specifies the standard of conviction and punishment for illegal marine fishing: those who illegally enter Chinese territorial waters and refuse to leave after being driven away, or who re-enter after being driven away or being fined in the past year, will be considered to have committed "serious" criminal acts and will be fined and sentenced to less than a year of imprisonment, detention or surveillance.
This penalty also applies to those who illegally enter China's territorial seas to fish but do not engage in "illegal fishing" under the law, it said.
"The explanation offers legal guarantees for marine fishing law enforcement," defining punishments for fishing without a license in order to encourage legal fishing, said the statement, adding that it also promotes judicial assistance and international cooperation on marine affairs.