Huge Chinese ‘dark fleets’ accused of fishing illegally in North Korean waters
- Researchers tracked hundreds of ships that do not appear in public monitoring systems fishing in violation of UN sanctions
- Competition from the larger, better-equipped Chinese vessels also forced North Korean fishermen to poach in Russian waters
The competition from hundreds of larger, better-equipped Chinese vessels was also forcing North Korean fishermen to poach in Russian waters, according to a group of international researchers involved in a Global Fishing Watch study.
In several new reports, including one published in the journal American Association for the Advancement of Science’s “Science Advances” on Wednesday, more than a dozen researchers from a number of maritime and fisheries groups used a machine learning algorithm to analyse satellite imagery to track so-called dark fleets, ships that do not appear in public monitoring systems, that are suspected of fishing in North Korean waters from 2017-2019
At least 900 “dark” fishing boats of Chinese origin poached in North Korean waters in 2017, the researchers found, with 700 doing so the following year. They described it as “the largest known case of illegal fishing perpetrated by a single distant-water fleet”.
“Hundreds of large, industrial vessels originating from China likely violated United Nations sanctions and caught almost half a billion dollars worth of Pacific flying squid,” Global Fishing Watch said in a statement.
It is not clear whether there is a contractual relationship between Beijing and Pyongyang over the fishing. The Chinese government says it complies with all UN sanctions, and told the UN that evasion tactics employed by the ships made it difficult to verify if a given vessel had engaged in illegal fishing.
Competition from larger Chinese trawlers is also forcing smaller North Korean wooden boats to roam further away from home, the watchdog reports said, leading to international incidents around the region. Some vessels form the North have instead poached in neighbouring Russian waters, which the flying squid pass through on a seasonal migration.
Call for radical change in the world’s approach to ocean management
Over the five years to 2018, more than 500 North Korean boats washed ashore on Japanese coasts, according to the reports, adding that many fishing settlements on the eastern coast of North Korea are reportedly known as “widows’ villages”.
Agence France-Presse, Reuters