Chinese vessel seized for fishing illegally in North Korea

Published on
August 5, 2021
Squid for sale in Xiamen, China.

South Korean authorities have handed over a 290-ton Chinese trawler to their counterparts in China after the vessel and 84 crewmembers entered North Korean waters in defiance of international sanctions on the country.

The fishing trawler, named in various media reports as the Yodaneo 26013, entered North Korean waters on 22 June. The South Korean coast guard tracked it over a distance of more than 1,000 miles before apprehending the vessel in South Korean waters.

A Chinese-language report on the Korean Yonhap news agency refers to the vessel as the Liao Dan Yu 26013, a domestic fishing vessel based out of China. Yonhap photos of the ship show a grey, small-scale vessel typical of China’s domestic waters, and the vessel’s name does not appear in the list of vessels licensed by China’s Agriculture Ministry to operate in the distant-water fleet. 

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2371 bans all North Korean exports of seafood, with the goal of eliminating income used by Pyongyang to build nuclear weapons.

However, over the past 20 years, an informal system has developed to allow Chinese vessels to pay a fee to access North Korean waters to fish for squid. Subsequent overfishing has depleted squid stocks in the region, with squid populations plummeting by 80 percent and 82 percent in South Korean and Japanese waters, respectively, since 2003, according to a study, “Illuminating Dark Fishing Fleets in North Korea,” published last year. With fewer squid to catch in domestic waters, North Korea fishermen have began to travel further distances to fish illegally in Russian waters in recent years. 

Meanwhile Dandong, a Chinese city in Liaoning Province on the border with North Korea and close to Japan and South Korea, is celebrating rapid growth in its squid processing sector. The Dandong Daily reported the city’s squid processors have increased exports to Japan and South Korea. Sales of squid for surimi buyers in Japan surged 18 percent year-over-year in volume in the first half of 2021 at one Dandong seafood processor, according to the newspaper, which is controlled by the city’s government.

Photo courtesy of Phakkapol Pasuthip/Shutterstock

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