In 2017, more than 100 ghost ships washed up on the northern coast of Japan. These vessels had 35 bodies on board. The previous year, the number of boats was 66 and they had traveled nearly 600 miles from their homeland. There was a mystery surrounding the discoveries. Some blamed it on the weather while others put the blame on the aging fishing fleet of North Korea. This was borne out by the physical condition of many of the boats and no one could explain the phenomenon. However, a nonprofit organization has entered the scene to try and solve the mystery.

It is the international nonprofit Global Fishing Watch and it offers a new, compelling theory. It lays the blame on the “dark fishing fleets" of China.

CNN says the study relied on various satellite technologies to analyze marine traffic in the region during 2017 and 2018. The study revealed an interesting picture. It found a large number of Chinese fishing vessels in the waters of North Korea. These ships appeared to be engaged in illegal fishing and, in order to occupy the space of the North Koreans, the intruders edged out the local fleets.

It was not difficult because the locals were ill-equipped to Travel long distances. Obviously, they kept drifting away from home and into the waters of Russia and Japan. Incidentally, trading in fish in the North Korean waters violates international law. In 2017, the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on the regime of Kim Jong-un for its ballistic missile tests.

In spite of that, there were hundreds of Chinese ships active in the region in 2017 and 2018 and the fishing trade was worth nearly $300 million.

Fishing boats of North Korea end up as ghost ships

Global Fishing Watch estimates the Chinese ships netted thousands of metric tons of Pacific flying squid.

This variety of fish is one of the most valuable seafood products of the area as revealed in the CNN report. The volume of fish in 2017 and 2018 was considerably more than what South Korea and Japan caught in the same period. It could be possible that since there was a ban on North Korea to fish, it could have sold fishing rights to others like China. This is borne out by a UN report published in March that says North Korea earned millions in 2018 by following this route. This act on the part of North Korea amounts to a violation of the terms of the UN sanctions.

China responsible for ghost ships of North Korea

The comprehensive study carried out by scientists analyzed various aspects and concluded that "It is the largest known case of illegal fishing perpetrated by vessels originating from one country operating in another nation's waters." The net result was misery for the North Korean fishermen who had to move further away from their homeland in search of fish.

They went into Russian and Japanese waters. Some of the ships suffered damage and ended up on the beaches of Japan. Global Fishing Watch goes on to add that stocks of Pacific flying squid have dropped substantially in the waters of South Korea and Japan. This could be due to overfishing or climate change that could be affecting spawning and migration patterns.

A 'dark' fishing fleet responsible for ghost ships

According to Daily Mail UK, the ghost ships of North Korea that wash up on the coasts of Japan are usually aging fishing vessels. These are pushed out of their own waters by a 'dark' fishing fleet. That is the finding of Global Fishing Watch, an NGO. It made use of the latest technology and discovered the presence of a large number of Chinese fishing vessels in North Korean waters.

When the ghost ships began to reach the Japanese coast, the local Coast guard presumed them to be due to bad weather. Incidentally, in February 2020, a ghost ship washed up on the Irish coast propelled by Storm Dennis. However, for North Korea, it was another story.