South Korean fishermen put aside nets to pick up placards or join a nationwide strike aimed at blocking the collection of sand from the seabed that fueled concerns about a drastic cut in their catch and a disrupted marine ecosystem.
Thousands of fishermen affiliated with the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives participated in protests Wednesday at their home ports and elsewhere.
The strike drew about 3,000 fishing boats which sounded the horn for 30 seconds three times at 12:50 pm (0350 GMT) and unfolded banners simultaneously, Yonhap News Agency said, adding fishermen rallied or marched with placards reading "Sand collection annihilates marine resources!"
At a rally in the southwestern port of Daecheon, about 500 fishermen urged the government to impose a permanent ban on the gathering sea sand. Similar rallies were held in may other ports, Yonhap said.
The strike came after the government allowed aggregate collectors to resume their suspended work for a year from March 1 near Yokjido Island off the southern port of Tongyeong.
The collection of sea sand began in 2008 as South Korea's rapid industrialization ignited a construction boom nationwide and led to the depletion of land sand. Official sandpits were designated at two places off the southwestern port city of Gunsan and
Yokjido. Dredging sand from the seabed was suspended off Yokjido in January due to protests.
Fishermen insisted they have seen a drastic cut in their catch because the marine ecosystem was seriously disrupted by the collection of sand. Contamination and rampant poaching by Chinese fishermen around the Korean peninsula have played a role in depleting fish stocks.
The South Korean government admitted freshmen have a good reason but appealed for their understanding, citing a short supply of sand for construction. Due to an active campaign by environmental activists and residents, the government is reluctant to gather sand from the river and the beach.
The glittering white-sand Haeundae beach in the southern port city of Busan was once considered one of the country's greatest natural wonders, but it has experienced rapid erosion.
Along with a 41-million-dollar state program to build underwater sea walls, the local government has dumped sand on the beach every year before the summer season. Experts said strong wave-induced currents and rip currents as the primary destructive causes for erosion, but also said regional development has lead to rapid erosion.
Lim Chang-won = email@example.com