Illuminating dark fishing fleets in North Korea

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Science Advances  22 Jul 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 30, eabb1197
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb1197


Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing threatens resource sustainability and equity. A major challenge with such activity is that most fishing vessels do not broadcast their positions and are “dark” in public monitoring systems. Combining four satellite technologies, we identify widespread illegal fishing by dark fleets in the waters between the Koreas, Japan, and Russia. We find >900 vessels of Chinese origin in 2017 and >700 in 2018 fished illegally in North Korean waters, catching an estimated amount of Todarodes pacificus approximating that of Japan and South Korea combined (>164,000 metric tons worth >$440 million). We further find ~3000 small-scale North Korean vessels fished, mostly illegally, in Russian waters. These results can inform independent oversight of transboundary fisheries and foreshadow a new era in satellite monitoring of fisheries.

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