The Japan Coast Guard (JCG) has cited illegal fishing as the most likely reason for the noticeable increase in the number of alleged North Korean wooden boats that had drifted off or washed ashore in Japan over the last couple of years.
The appearances of the boats are said to have become more frequent following an increase in illegal squid fishing activity by North Korean-registered vessels in and around Yamato-tai, which is within Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
A total of 220 boats have ended up drifting off or washing ashore across 10 prefectures since April 2018, including a boat containing two adult male corpses that had washed ashore in Hokkaido in November. By comparison, only 130 such boats were identified in Japanese waters during fiscal year 2017, or April 2017 to March 2018.
A senior JCG official has stated that the North Korean boats were generally poorly built and equipped, which may explain why a huge number had ended up drifting a considerable distance from their usual fishing grounds.
The JCG plans to send out more patrols around Yamato-tai at the start of the squid season in the spring to discourage North Korean vessels from entering the area illegally.