North Korean fishermen ‘defy water cannon in battles with Japanese coast guard’
Japanese fishermen are reporting clashes with North Korean fishing boats operating illegally within Japan’s exclusive economic zone during the peak squid fishing season.
The number of North Korean fishing vessels identified operating within Japanese waters has increased sharply in recent years, with the Fisheries Agency reporting that 5,191 foreign vessels were ordered to leave Japanese waters in 2017. In May to September this year, warnings were issued to 4,481 ships.
The majority of these cases have occurred in waters between northern Japan and the Korean Peninsula, including the rich squid and shrimp fishing grounds off the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture.
The Japan Squid Fisheries Association intends to submit a written request for additional security for Japanese boats and crews operating within the EEZ to the government, the Yomiuri newspaper reported.
“We can’t do anything, even if they operate illegally, and they act as though they own the place,” said Ken Honma, the captain of the Wakashio Maru No. 85, which is based in the Yamaguchi Prefecture port of Sakata.
Mr Honma told the Yomiuri that his vessel approached two foreign fishing boats off northern Japan and indicated that they should leave the area. The foreign fishermen threw stones at his vessel, Mr Honma claimed, adding that the authorities’ apparent inability to halt the poaching is “annoying”.
Japan Coast Guard vessels have taken steps to force the foreign ships to leave Japanese waters, but with limited success.
“When the authorities threaten to spray water at these ships, they hide behind Japanese boats”, Hideki Hiratsuka, head of the squid fishing fleet in the town of Ogi, Ishikawa Prefecture, told the Yomiuri.
“I want the authorities to take tougher security steps, such as seizing those vessels”, he said.
The arrival of North Korean ships in Japanese waters is a relatively recent problem and is apparently the result of falling catches in the North’s coastal waters, which have been largely fished out as demand for food increases. That situation has been worsened by sanctions on the North, which have limited international trade
Despite the relatively unseaworthiness of their vessels, the North Korean government has also been ordering its fishing fleets to go further out to sea in search of better catches.
One consequence of that policy is reports of dozens of damaged North Korean fishing boats washing up without their crews or only with their remains aboard.
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