The Japan Coast Guards (JCG) have started to send patrol boats to the vicinity of the Yamato Bank in the Sea of Japan to deter North Korean fishing boats from trespassing and illegally fishing for squid within Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), according to sources interviewed on July 9. The JCG has been coordinating the deployment of patrol vessels since North Korean boats have been spotted near the Yamato Bank since last fall. The patrol boats are thought to be cracking down on the North Korean boats.
The Yamato Bank, located some 400 km off the Oga Peninsula where the seabed suddenly becomes shallow, is one of Japan’s best fishing spots. Japanese fishing boats used to catch squid in around June and October but have been forced to abandon the fishing grounds when hundreds of North Korean vessels started operating in the waters since last fall.
According to the Fisheries Agency, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea states that the marine resources located in the EEZ within 200 nautical miles (around 370 km) of a nation’s coastline are controlled by the coastal nation.
The North Korean fishing boats, which have not concluded any fishing agreements with Japan, have been violating Japan’s fisheries act. In addition, the Japan squid fishing society has been requesting that the JCG adopt more stringent measures as the fishing nets used by the North Korean boast could render Japanese vessels useless if they got caught on their propellers.
The 9th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, based in Niigata city, controls the waters near the Yamato Bank. Patrol vessels from various parts of Japan gathered to the port of Niiga, including the Daisen (Maizuru Maritime Safety Agency, 3,100 tons), the Shikine (Shimoda Maritime Safety Agency, 1,300 tons), and the Kikuchi (Moji Maritime Safety Agency, 334 tons). These patrol vessels are believed to be operating near the Yamato Bank under the supervision of a Fisheries Agency vessel.
The Ogi branch of Ishikawa Prefectural fisheries cooperative is concerned that the problem will occur again in the autumn if the illegal fishing is left unchecked. “Yamoto Bank will be taken over by North Korean boats,” laments one source from the cooperative. “We hope the authorities will deal with them firmly as only patrol vessels can chase them away.”