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A fishing boat is seen from an aircraft of the Ecuadorian navy after a fishing fleet of mostly Chinese-flagged ships was detected (Reuters)

Number of Chinese boats in Japanese fishing area increasing, global concern for squid status

Click on the flag for more information about Japan JAPAN
Tuesday, October 27, 2020, 09:00 (GMT + 9)

The following is an excerpt from an article published byRadio Free Asia (RFA) and Jiji Press Ltd:

The number of Chinese boats allegedly illegally fishing for flying squid has been increasing rapidly in Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off Ishikawa Prefecture's Noto Peninsula.

In the first nine months of this year, 2,586 Chinese fishing boats received warnings from the Fisheries Agency to leave the Yamatotai area in the Sea of Japan, nearly four times more than a year before.

Yamatotai is known as a plentiful fishing area for flying squid and snow crabs, and is an area in which illegal operations by foreign fishing boats have frequently happened.

A Japan Coast Guard patrol ship turns a water cannon on a North Korean fishing boat around the Yamatotai area in the Sea of Japan in early November. | JAPAN COAST GUARD / VIA KYODO►

In October last year, a North Korean fishing boat sank after a collision with a Fisheries Agency patrol ship.

This year, only a few North Korean fishing boats have been found around the area.

Still, a North Korean government ship was spotted in the EEZ on Sept. 29, prompting the Japanese government to ask Japanese fishermen to refrain from operating there to help ensure their safety.

The North Korean ship's purpose remains unclear, but some believe that the ship came to the area to assist fishing by Chinese boats, as North Korea is believed to have been selling fishery rights to China.

Japanese fishermen cannot operate in the western part of Yamatotai due to a government request. "Why do we have to refrain from fishing in our territorial waters?" asked a fishery cooperatives official in Hyogo Prefecture.

It is uncertain when the government's request will be lifted, as the North Korean ship is apparently still sailing around the area.

"This is an extremely unusual situation," said Hiroshi Kishi, head of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations.

"We want the government to bring order to the area so that we can operate without worrying," Kishi said.

Fishery minister Kotaro Nogami on Friday said, "We'll cooperate with related government agencies, including the Japan Coast Guard" to address the issue.

Concern in the South Pacific and South Atlantic

Large-scale squid fishing by Chinese vessels has become a cause of concern to the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (SPRFMO), which manages fishing in waters off Chile, Peru, and the Galapagos Islands.

In 2019, the organization reported that 516 Chinese ocean-going fishing vessels were observed fishing in the South Pacific. It says the number of Chinese vessels has multiplied fourfold since 2010.

"Currently, the consensus is to use fishing curbs as an initial control method," Chen, who recently took part in an online conference with the group.

"But limiting the number of fishing boats or imposing other restrictions will need further discussion on the technical side," he said.

Many Chinese boats arrive in Peruvian waters in search of Humboldt squid. Image by Simon Ager/Sea Shepherd

He said more than 50 percent of the global squid catch comes from Argentine waters in the South Atlantic and American red squid in the East Pacific, and the Japanese squid in the North Pacific.

Squid fishing resources have gradually increased since the 1980s, with growing investment in ships and declining catches, Chen said.

Between 50 and 70 percent of the global catch is caught by the Chinese fleet on the high seas, causing a wave of fishery disputes and political tensions.

The latest satellite data analysis from Global Fisheries Watch shows that nearly 400 foreign squid-fishing boats entered Peru's exclusive economic zone in September alone, while more than 300 Chinese fishing boats gathered in the waters of the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador earlier this year.

Argentine Navy ship chasing Chinese jiggers trying to escape control (Photo: Argentinean Navy)

The Ecuadorian military accused the Chinese fishing boats of turning off their tracking systems intermittently to avoid being monitored.

Last year, an Argentine navy cruiser fired on a Chinese fishing boat after it was warned against fishing in its economic exclusion zone, an area defined as being within 200 nautical miles of a country's coast.

Chen said Chinese vessels tend to move into areas that haven't yet been brought under international fishing regulation, obtaining fishing licenses and catch quotas before regional authorities have even visited the site.

Source: Jiji and RFA

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