Posts Tagged ‘fishermen’

Tackle Lake Chad environment to stop Boko Haram: experts

May 9, 2018

Revitalising Lake Chad will stop Boko Haram from gaining a long-term foothold in the region, experts said on Wednesday, as four countries wrapped up talks aimed at ending in the conflict.

© AFP/File / by Aminu ABUBAKAR | An aerial picture of Lake Chad, around 200kms from Chad capital city N’Djamena in 2016


The insurgency began in 2009 and has killed at least 20,000 in northeast Nigeria alone, spreading to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, prompting a regional military response.

But 11 governors from four countries surrounding the lake plus local and international aid agencies were told that fighting alone would not stop the conflict.

“The whole of the Boko Haram problem has its roots in the drying of the lake, which has left millions with no means of livelihood,” said Mamman Nuhu, executive secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Development Commission.

“Poverty has no frontier, the people around Lake Chad face the same challenges,” he told AFP on the sidelines of the Lake Chad Governors’ Forum in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria.

“Once the lake is restored, the Boko Haram problem will permanently be taken care of.”

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for West Africa and the Sahel, said the shrinking of most of the lake’s surface was one of the main causes of poverty.

“It is a major factor for the lack of jobs and other employment opportunities for young people, which makes the region a fertile recruitment ground for terrorists,” he added.

– ‘Huge task’ –

The freshwater lake and its fertile hinterland once provided a living for fishermen and farmers but in the last 40 years has seen a staggering 90 percent of its surface area shrink.

Climate change and mismanagement have been blamed.

Loss of employment opportunities, a lack of access to education, poor governance and corruption has fostered resentment, anger and a desire to fight back.

Boko Haram tapped into such disaffection with the promise of financial rewards in a largely lawless region where drugs and arms flowed through porous borders.

In February, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria met in Abuja to discuss with international experts and development agencies how to salvage the lake.

One plan mooted was the revival of a project to dig a 2,600-kilometre (1,600 mile) canal from the Democratic Republic of Congo across the Central African Republic.

The canal would meet the Chari River that feeds into the lake.

Proponents say it also could attract back cattle herders whose migration further south because of desertification has led to clashes with farmers.

The flow of migrants from Africa to Europe could also slow, they argued.

Some estimates put the cost of the project as much as $14 billion (12 billion euros) but the governor of Niger’s Diffa region, Bakabe Mahamadou, said there was a lack of funds.

“We don’t have the money to execute this project, it is a huge task that will take years to accomplish,” he added.

– Security concerns –

Efforts to tackle the source of radicalisation in the northeast have been floated before, not least in 2014 at the height of the insurgency under president Goodluck Jonathan.

Then, the government proposed a “soft-power” plan to encourage local communities to shun extremism as well as “de-radicalise” suspected militants.

The plan, widely praised by analysts tracking the conflict, was seen as a recognition that military might alone was not enough, particularly against Boko Haram’s guerilla tactics.

As the conference opened on Tuesday, two female suicide bombers were shot dead in a botched attack on a mosque in the Jiddari Polo area of Maiduguri.

But even if funding was not an issue, implementation of any environmental scheme for Lake Chad would have to take a back seat initially to security operations.

According to the commander of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, Major-General Lucky Irabor, military action was targeting Boko Haram on the islands of Lake Chad.

“The security situation within the Lake Chad basin is improving… we want to return civil authority to the area so that we can bring concrete development to the people,” he said.


Kenya’s empty nets: How cheap Chinese fish imports have hooked buyers

April 18, 2018
Kenyan fisherman pull up their nets in the early morning as they fish on Lake Victoria.

Story highlights

  • Perch, tilapia declined by 20% to 30%
  • Cheap frozen imported fish from China
  • Kenya companies turn to fish farming

(CNN)With nets in hand and the boat’s motor chugging along on still waters, dozens of fishermen set out to Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, at the crack of dawn.

It’s a scene that’s been repeated for generations.
Fishing is the mainstay of lake-side communities in Kenya. It has fueled the economy and provided employment for decades, but these days overfishing, a lack of infrastructure and cheap Chinese imports have hit the industry hard.
“In the last 20 to 30 years, perch and tilapia catches have declined 60% to 80% throughout this region,” said Joseph Rehmann, co-founder and CEO of Victory Farms. At the same time Kenya’s population has roughly doubled to nearly 50 million.
Kenyan fisherman Charles Otieno told CNN: “It’s a trend that’s been happening for a long time.”

Superpower fish

Marketplace Africa Kenya China fish trade A_00000225
Competing with cheaper fish imports 05:15
Kenya’s fish stocks have been ailing and its main competitor is China, one of the world’s largest economies and leading fish producers.
The increased demand from Kenya’s fish-hungry population means the country is relying on frozen farmed imports.
“We know that the demand in Africa is very big,” Ling Wang, executive vice president at agricultural firm Baiyang Investment Group, which exports to Kenya, told CNN.
A collection of tilapias. A popular fish in Kenya.

In 2016, China exported roughly $30 million of fish to Kenya — double the year before.
“It’s a good thing that we have fish coming in to fill in the gap, the deficit that we have. But on the other hand, we have to compete in terms of production and either lower the cost or increase our volumes so that we can avail fish to our communities,” said former Kenyan Fisheries Secretary Charles Ngugi, who now runs his own fish farm.

Local consumers

Women sell dried fish at the Kawangware market on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Despite China being thousands of kilometers from Kenya, intensive, large-scale farming, and a willingness to keep prices low, even at a loss, means Chinese fish are often considerably cheaper than local offerings.
“If you can get a fish from China, one piece is selling at 150 shillings ($1.5) per kilo while we sell at 400 shillings ($4). It is a very big challenge because people will always go with the cheaper things,” Kenyan fisherman and trader Maurice Muma told CNN.
Kenya’s fishing industry has started looking to fish farming to increase competitiveness with Chinese companies.
Victory Farms, is fish farming enterprise based in Kenya, was founded in 2015 and harvests 80 to 100 tons of fish per month.
“The Kenyan fisheries of the regions where we operate is currently harvesting two tons per year from hundreds and hundreds of fishermen, whereas at Victory Farms we are able to pull five to 10 tons on any given day,” Rehmann said.
However, industrial fish farming has been criticized because of the negative impact it can have on the ecosystem, health and the environment, if not done sustainably.
Victory Farms says it is committed to farming fish in the same water for years to come.
However, it is likely to take more than fish farming to solve Kenya’s fishing deficit. Unlike China, Kenya has to import most of its fish feed.

Cold chain infrastructure

Marketplace Africa Kenya cold chain fish industry A_00025022

Additionally, Kenya’s fishing industry lacks a cold chain infrastructure — a supply chain, from source to sale, that keeps fish fresh and cool.
“The quality of the fish will be degraded by not being properly preserved,” Rehmann said.
An inadequate power network is also preventing the cold chain system from working.
“Ice needs power and power is not, let’s say, consistent in this part of the world,” said Steve Moran, co-founder and COO of Victory Farms.
While the heyday of Lake Victoria’s fishing boom in the 1980s and 1990s is a way off, better environmental protections and infrastructure could help restore the fishing industry.
“This lake is presently undeveloped, but as it begins to develop environmental protection — keeping diseases out, keeping foreign fish out is a very important part of the long-term sustainability of aquaculture,” Rehmann said.

UK fishermen launch nationwide protests over Brexit

April 8, 2018


© AFP | A woman dressed as Britannia, poses as a flotilla of fishing vessels passes under Newcastle’s Millennium Bridge, kicking off a protest against a deal that would see Britain continue to adhere, for now, to the Common Fisheries Policy

LONDON (AFP) – British fishermen launched protests in ports around the country Sunday over perceived capitulation to the European Union in Brexit negotiations.Organisers estimated as many as 200 vessels could participate in the day-long nationwide action, forming flotillas bearing flags and sounding horns as people also demonstrate on docksides.

“Fishermen and fishing communities are enraged that the government has capitulated to Britain having to obey all EU law after Brexit,” said the pro-Brexit organising group Fishing for Leave, in a statement.

“Fishermen fear the EU will be able to enforce ill-founded rules to cull the British fleet and use international law to claim the resources the UK would no longer be able to catch.”

Protests began in Newcastle, where a 15-boat flotilla assembled Sunday morning, before others mustered in Milford Haven, Wales, and Plymouth, southwest England, later in the day.

Further demonstrations were set for other sites, including Whitstable, Kent, where up to 40 vessels are expected and organisers plan to burn a disused boat in a shore-side bonfire during the evening.

“I think this is going to draw attention — we want our voice heard,” said Brendon Hall, 21, of Teignmouth, Devon, who followed his father into the industry four years ago and had sailed to Plymouth to protest.

“The main part of the leave campaign was leaving the CFP (Common Fisheries Policy) but we’re staying in with no veto and no say,” he added, referring to the 2016 referendum that saw Britons vote for Brexit.

A draft deal struck with the EU last month will effectively keep Britain bound by the CFP — which ensures equal access to member states’ waters and sets quotas on catch — during a 20-month transition period following its formal departure from the bloc on March 29 next year.

Fishing for Leave spokesman Alan Hastings said the agreement was a “death sentence” for the industry, “as the EU will be free to enforce and impose detrimental rules on us to cull what’s left of the UK fleet.”

A petition posted on the British parliament’s website calling on the Government to abandon adopting the CFP post-Brexit has garnered more than 61,000 petitions.

After 100,000 signatures, a petition is considered for debate in the House of Commons.

The government has insisted Britain will be leaving the CFP when it departs the EU, and will negotiate a new fisheries policy independently from December 2020.


The fishing industry represents just 0.4 percent of Britain’s GDP, according to 2016 statistics.

Fishermen fear Brexit betrayal as countdown begins — Leaving the EU could be a false dawn for hopes of taking back control — “It will cause a huge amount of resentment if fairness is not restored as part of our leaving the European Union.”

March 28, 2018



© AFP/File / by Joe JACKSON | Pro-Brexit flags fly from a British fishing boat

BRIXHAM (UNITED KINGDOM) (AFP) – On the dockside in Brixham, a bustling fishing port in southwestern England, the fear is that Britain’s departure from the European Union may prove a false dawn for hopes of taking back control.The area voted 63 percent in favour of leaving the EU in the 2016 referendum — a sign of the anger over its fishing quotas and equal access rights blamed for a long-term decline of the industry.

But with exactly one year to go from Thursday before Britain’s scheduled departure date, fishermen see signs that their concerns could be traded away in negotiations with Brussels.

“Fishermen have never had a good deal in all the years I can remember,” said Dave Banks, 69, who had just returned from four days at sea, catching cuttlefish, sole and turbot in nearby waters as skipper of the 24-metre (78-foot) trawler, Stephanie.

In a draft agreement published this month, the government conceded that Britain would effectively remain part of the EU fisheries policy during a 20-month transition period following its formal departure on March 29 next year.

The concession has sparked outcry from fishermen and staunch Brexit supporters who last week staged a protest on the River Thames.

Meanwhile, what happens beyond 2021 is still to be negotiated.

“It makes me absolutely sick,” said Rick Smith, a retired fisherman and chairman of Brixham Trawler Agents, which among other roles runs the town’s daily fish auction, calling the move “an appeasement”.

“We hope that we’re going to make enough noise to not allow it. But it depends on the strength of our politicians and if they’re weak, and they start caving in to European demands,” he said from the firm’s office overlooking the port.

– ‘Absolutely disgusting’ –

Britain’s fishing industry has been shrinking for decades, due to economic as well as political factors.

The number of fishermen on UK-registered vessels has decreased by 75 percent since 1938, while the number of boats has fallen by 29 percent since 1996 to the current total of 6,191.

After years of EU quotas that limited what boats can catch in waters currently shared with other European vessels, many fishermen left the industry.

The British government also scrapped boats during the 2000s to try to help ensure sustainable fish stocks, and redirected financially stretched fishermen to other work.

“So many boats have gone against the wall because of the quotas,” said Banks, as he stood on the boat’s bridge and directed a small crane lifting crates of fish out from its depths.

“It’s absolutely disgusting the way British fishermen have been treated over the last 40 years.”

Fishermen in Brixham and elsewhere bemoan the sale of UK-registered vessels to foreign owners, which then fish from the British quota but land their catch abroad.

They believe quotas are unfairly weighted in favour of the Europeans and together with the access granted to British waters, have combined to doom the industry.

Environmentalists argue quotas have been effective in replenishing heavily-depleted stocks, with North Sea cod stocks now at 35-year highs.

Cod, a long-time favourite of British fish ‘n’ chip shops, riles fishermen in southwestern ports like Brixham.

The 2016 quota for the English Channel gave French boats 72 percent of the stocks, and Britain just nine percent.

Although the UK makes up for it in the North Sea, where it holds over half the quota, the policy seems nonsensical to those in Brixham.

– ‘Catch what you like’ –

The town, on what locals call the English Riviera, has fierce pride in its heritage and is now England’s biggest port by landed fish value.

At a daily dawn market, where auctioneers in white coats flog fish by the kilo to dozens of wholesalers and local retailers amid the chorus of seagulls, over 40 species are sold.

Sheltered by steep hills packed with narrow streets and colourfully painted houses, the harbour dominates daily life.

Even on a dreary day in March, plenty of visitors could be see sampling the town’s seafood restaurants, while weather-beaten fishermen clocking off headed to the port’s nearest pub, The Crown & Anchor.

Andrew McLeod, 49, who captains the 33.5-metre Van Dijck trawler, has spent three decades navigating the ups and downs of the industry, and six months ago welcomed his 19-year-old son aboard.

“Back in the day you could go catch what you like, land what you like,” he recalled.

The father-of-five, whose father was a master mariner in the merchant navy but bought a fishing boat to avoid being away most of the year, speaks for many when he said he fears the industry being used as a “bargaining chip” in Brexit negotiations.

The fishing industry represents just 0.4 percent of Britain’s GDP, according to 2016 statistics.

“In the grand scheme of things it’s probably not that valuable but it is to communities, especially like Brixham,” said Smith.

“Brixham is fishing — if we’ve not got fishing here, there’s not a lot else.”

Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Brixham, told AFP: “Britain’s fishing industry undoubtedly had a bad deal when we entered the EEC (European Economic Community).

“It will cause a huge amount of resentment if fairness is not restored as part of our leaving the European Union.”


Nigeria repeatedly warned before Boko Haram abducted 110 schoolgirls: Amnesty — “A War They Don’t Want To Win”

March 20, 2018

Nigeria forces repeatedly warned before Boko Haram abducted 110 schoolgirls: AmnestyA picture taken on Feb. 28 at the Government Girls Technical College at Dapchi town in northern Nigeria shows a classroom deserted by fleeing students after Boko Haram Islamists kidnapped 110 schoolgirls. Nigeria’s government on March 1 said it had set up a committee to establish how Boko Haram jihadists managed to kidnap the 110 girls from their school in the country’s remote northeast. | AFP



Nigeria’s military was on Tuesday accused of ignoring repeated warnings about the movements of Boko Haram fighters before they kidnapped 110 schoolgirls in the country’s restive northeast.

The students — the youngest of whom is aged just 10 — were seized from the town of Dapchi, Yobe state, on Feb. 19 in virtually identical circumstances to those in Chibok in 2014.

Then, more than 200 schoolgirls were taken in an attack that brought sustained world attention on the Islamist insurgency and sparked a global campaign for their release.

President Muhammadu Buhari has called the Dapchi abduction a “national disaster” and vowed to use negotiation rather than force to secure their release.

But as in Chibok nearly four years ago, human rights group Amnesty International claimed the military was warned about the arrival of the heavily armed jihadists — yet failed to act.

In the hours that followed both attacks, the authorities also tried to claim the girls had not been abducted.

Amnesty’s Nigeria director Osa Ojigho said “no lessons appear to have been learned” from Chibok and called for an immediate probe into what she called “inexcusable security lapses.

“The government’s failure in this incident must be investigated and the findings made public — and it is absolutely crucial that any investigation focuses on the root causes,” she added.

“Why were insufficient troops available? Why was it decided to withdraw troops? What measures have the government taken to protect schools in northeast Nigeria?

“And what procedures are supposed to be followed in response to an attempted abduction?”

There was no immediate response from the Nigerian military when contacted by AFP.

Amnesty said that between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Feb. 19, at least five calls were made to tell the security services that Islamist fighters were in the Dapchi area.

Locals spotted about 50 members of the Islamic State group affiliate in a convoy of nine vehicles in Futchimiram, about 30 km (19 miles) from Dapchi, then at Gumsa.

In Gumsa, where Boko Haram stayed until about 5:00 p.m., residents phoned ahead to Dapchi to warn them. The convoy arrived at about 6:30 p.m. and left about 90 minutes later.

Amnesty, whose researchers spoke to about 23 people and three security officials, said the army command in Geidam had told callers they were aware of the situation and were monitoring.

Police in Dapchi promised to tell divisional commanders, while army commanders in Geidam and Damaturu were also alerted during the attack, it added.

People in Dapchi have previously said troops were withdrawn from the town earlier this year, leaving only a few police officers. The nearest military detachment was an hour away.

The Dapchi abduction has thrown into doubt repeated government and military claims that Boko Haram is on the brink of defeat, after nearly nine years of fighting and at least 20,000 deaths.

Boko Haram, which has used kidnapping as a weapon of war during the conflict, has not claimed responsibility but it is believed a faction headed by Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi is behind it.

Image result for Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi, photos

Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi

IS in August 2015 publicly backed Barnawi as the leader of Boko Haram, or Islamic State West Africa Province, over Abubakar Shekau, whose supporters carried out the Chibok abduction.

Analysts have attributed a financial motive to the Dapchi kidnapping given government ransom payments made to Boko Haram to secure the release of some of the captives from Chibok.


Boko Haram kills 5 fishermen in Borno, Nigeria — Jihadists against fishermen?

March 18, 2018


Suspected Boko Haram jihadists killed five fishermen on a remote island in northeastern Nigeria for aiding the search for dozens of schoolgirls kidnapped last month by the jihadists, a local official said Saturday.

“Five men who went fishing near the border with Chad were shot dead,” said Abubakar Gamandi, president of the fisheries union in Borno state, where the killings occurred.

He said the attack happened on Tudun Umbrella island in Lake Chad, which borders Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon.

Image result for Lake chad, map

Members of the militant Islamist group stormed the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe state, in February, taking 110 girls with them as they fled.

Girls at the school in Dapchi in the northeastern state of Yobe, where dozens of school girls went missing after an attack on the village by Boko Haram.

The Dapchi kidnapping rekindled painful memories of a similar mass abduction by Boko Haram four years ago, when more than 200 schoolgirls were taken from Chibok in an act that shocked the world.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari called the February 19 abduction a “national disaster” and a widespread hunt for the girls is under way.

Gamandi said the fishermen were killed because they were assisting the military in the search.

“Fishermen have been assisting the military in the operation to locate the schoolgirls because we know the terrain well,” he told AFP.

Boko Haram have repeatedly attacked fishermen in the border region around Lake Chad in recent years.

Nigeria’s battle against the extremist group in northeastern regions has left more than 20,000 people dead and forced more than 1.5 million to flee their homes since 2009.


Vietnam: Taiwan steel firm behind toxic dump in Vietnam fined again — toxic chemicals — including cyanide — into the ocean

December 17, 2017


© AFP/File | A toxic dump last year from a Formosa steel plant sparked one of Vietnam’s worst environmental catastrophes

HANOI (AFP) – A Taiwanese steel firm behind a toxic spill that killed tonnes of fish in central Vietnam last year was fined for a second time for illegally burying “harmful” waste, official sources said Sunday.The deadly dump from Formosa’s $11 billion steel plant in Ha Tinh province sparked one of the country’s worst environmental catastrophes, decimating livelihoods along swathes of coastline and prompting months of rare protests in the authoritarian country.

The firm was initially fined $500 million for pouring toxic chemicals — including cyanide — into the ocean in April 2016, and has now been ordered to pay an additional $25,000 on separate charges of burying harmful solid waste in the ground, according to the official Cong Ly newspaper.

 Image result for formosa steel, protests in vietnam, photos

A local contractor will also be fined $20,000 for helping to dispose of the 100 cubic metres of waste, added Cong Ly, the mouthpiece of the Supreme Court.

An official in Ha Tinh province confirmed the latest fine to AFP on Sunday, without providing further details.

The waste was buried in July 2016, and local residents reported seeing trucks ferrying the material to a farm belonging to the contractor hired to dispose of it.

Police confirmed the waste came from Formosa and launched an investigation last year. Officials would not comment on why it took more than a year to issue the nominal fines.

The toxic spill set off angry demonstrations against the company and the government in the one-party state that routinely jails its critics, including by affected fishermen who demanded greater compensation.

Several activists have been arrested and convicted for their involvement in the protests, including a 22-year-old blogger who was jailed for seven years last month.

Formosa’s huge steel plant, which was under construction at the time of the disaster, was given the green light to resume operations in April after officials found it had addressed dozens of violations.

Several officials were punished or fired after the disaster, which saw beaches littered with fish, including large offshore species.

Communist Vietnam has been accused of ignoring environmental concerns on its march toward rapid development, though the issue has become a central issue for some groups who have taken up the cause on social media.

See also:





 (September 16, 2016)


Formosa steel discharge into the sea on the Vietnamese coast

More than 100 scientists, including foreign experts, joined an investigation into the mass fish deaths, Minister Mai Tien Dung, Chairman of the Office of the Government, said at a long-awaited press conference in Hanoi Thursday afternoon.

They found out that industrial waste containing phenol, cyanide and iron hydroxides in the water killed the fish. The source of the waste was traced back to FHS, according to Minister Dung.

FHS on June 28 took responsibility for the “serious environmental incident,” after multiple meetings between Vietnam’s environment ministry and related agencies and FHS as well as Formosa Plastics, Dung said


Illegal fishing by N. Korean boats rampant in Sea of Japan

December 1, 2017

By Kayo Yamada and Sho Mizuno / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers

AKITA/SEOUL — Wooden boats apparently coming from North Korea have been found one after another on or near the Sea of Japan coast. Many of these boats are believed to have engaged in illegal fishing in the area of the Yamato Bank, a good fishing ground in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, and other areas.

With the international community stepping up sanctions against Pyongyang, illegal fishing by North Korea is likely to increase further and the Japanese government is tightening security against it.

At around 11:25 p.m. on Nov. 23, the doorbell suddenly rang at a house in Yurihonjo, Akita Prefecture, which faces the Sea of Japan.

Image may contain: ocean, text and water

The woman living in the house felt suspicious about the sudden late-night visitor, but answered the door anyway. A man who looked Asian spoke to her in a foreign language; he could not communicate in Japanese. She immediately made an emergency call to the police, saying there were suspicious people in the area.

The police officers who arrived at the house later found a wooden boat and eight men and held them in protective custody. The men told the police that they came from North Korea for squid fishing and that they had trouble with their boat, according to sources.

Another woman living nearby said: “I was surprised to hear that some foreigners had suddenly visited a house at midnight. I was relieved that it did not become a serious issue.”

According to the Japan Coast Guard, between 45 and 80 wooden boats that apparently came from the Korean Peninsula have been found off or on Japan’s coastline annually since 2013. This year, 43 such boats had been detected as of Nov. 22.

Since Nov. 15, the number of such boats has been markedly increasing, with at least 13 boats found in Aomori, Akita, Ishikawa, Niigata, Yamagata and other prefectures, and 11 people having been taken into protective custody. In addition, the bodies of 17 people have been found.

Given that a strong northwest seasonal wind blows from the Asian continent toward Japan in winter, the number of such boats is expected to increase further.

Capsized by typhoon?

Most of the boats found off or on Japan’s coastline are fishing boats operating in the Sea of Japan. They are believed to have drifted to Japan after capsizing or for other reasons. Many of them apparently engaged in illegal fishing for Japanese flying squid and other marine life in Japan’s EEZ.

In late October, a squid-fishing boat belonging to the Yamagata prefectural fisheries cooperative traveled south from waters off Hokkaido to the Yamato Bank, and found 300 to 400 boats believed to be North Korea-registered vessels. Trying to avoid collisions, the boat could not even get close to the Yamato Bank, according to the cooperative.

Many fishermen and their families say that an accident could occur anytime and that they are always worried because the crew of such boats would be armed.

The Yamato Bank is a section of seabed 300 kilometers northwest of the Noto Peninsula, the central area of the Sea of Japan. The bank is several tens of kilometers wide and about 200 kilometers long, and runs from southwest to northeast. The bank has a shallow water depth of about 300 meters and is a converging point of warm and cold currents. For those reasons, large amounts of plankton flourish in the waters, making the area a good fishing ground for Japanese flying squid and crabs.

According to the Ogi branch of the Ishikawa Prefecture Fisheries Co-operative Associations, at least six boats were confirmed to have capsized in the sea near the Yamato Bank in late November.

“These boats might have been capsized by a typhoon and drifted to Japan. I’m worried because they could collide with Japanese boats or their nets could become entangled with each other,” said a senior official of the fishing cooperative.

Fishing cooperative associations in each prefecture have separately submitted written requests to the government calling for strengthening patrols of illegal fishing activities in the sea since July.

Small boats far from shore

On a wooden boat found off Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture, on Monday, an item believed to be a pass holder was left behind. Lee Yong Hwa, a professor at Kansai University, said that there were Korean characters on it meaning “Military Unit 264, Military Ship.”

“North Korean fishermen may do fishing on military ships,” Lee added.

With economic sanctions by the international community against North Korea mounting, the country is putting effort into fisheries as a national policy to address food shortages.

The Rodong Sinmun daily newspaper of the Workers’ Party of Korea said in its Nov. 7 editorial that fisheries are an important front directly linked to people’s lives, strongly encouraging the fishing industry.

On the other hand, according to a parliamentary report in July 2016 presented by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, and various South Korean media reports, North Korea is troubled by a shortage of foreign currency and sells fishing rights in the Yellow Sea, the Sea of Japan and other areas to Chinese fishing boats.

As a result, North Korean boats cannot fish near their waters. Yet they still have catch targets imposed on them by the military, so are believed to enter Japan’s EEZ to engage in illegal fishing.

Among illegal fishing boats repeatedly engaging in poaching, there are many small boats for coastal fishing that are forced to travel far from the shore. These boats are old and not very durable, and there are believed to be many cases in which their engines break down during their operation.

“North Korea is facing a serious fuel shortage due to the effects of the sanctions resolution adopted by the U.N. Security Council in September,” Ahn Chan Il, the head of the World Institute for North Korea Studies, who is familiar with situations in North Korea, said. “Low-quality fuels often cause engine trouble, so if they encounter an unexpected storm, they are not able to survive it.”



Sanctions May Be Triggering Flow of North Korean Boats to Japan

December 1, 2017
  • More than 20 fishing vessels drifted to Japan in November
  • North Korea sold fishing rights to China for currency: reports
A North Korean fishing boat drifting near an uninhabited island off Matsumae, Hokkaido on Nov. 29. Photographer: Kyodo News via Getty Images

More than 20 North Korean fishing boats drifted to Japan last month, as sanctions prompt the isolated regime’s fishermen to venture farther from shore in rickety wooden vessels.

North Korea is being forced to bolster domestic food production as its access to foreign markets and currency is limited by United Nations sanctions imposed over its nuclear and missile programs, according to Hideshi Takesada, a professor at Takushoku University in Tokyo. That effort is being hampered by the sale of fishing rights to China, pushing its citizens to head for more distant fishing grounds, he said.

The rogue state has sold fishing rights in the Sea of Japan to China to earn foreign currency, Yonhap News reported in August, citing an unidentified intelligence official. This brings leader Kim Jong Un an annual $75 million, the news agency said.

Read more about the UN’s discussion of sanctions here

While dozens of the drifting boats are observed every year, last month saw a surge in numbers, with some fishermen surviving an ordeal that often proves more fatal. Japan’s coastguard recorded 24 incidents involving drifting boats Nov. 1-27, compared with 66 for the whole of last year.

For survivors to make it ashore is unusual — recent arrivals are the first to do so in almost three years.

Eight people who said they were fishing for squid were taken in for questioning last week in Akita Prefecture, on the northwestern coast of Japan’s main island. This week, ten more were found aboard a boat in waters off the northern island of Hokkaido.

A damaged wooden boat is seen at a marina in Akita on Nov. 24.

Photographer: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

“More of them are sailing to Japan’s exclusive economic zone, to the Yamato Bank, which offers the best fishing grounds in the Sea of Japan,” said Takesada, an author of a book on North Korea. “There is a cash economy where you can sell excess fish and agricultural products, so even before the effect of the recent sanctions, there has been an incentive to venture out further.”

Japan will probably face a headache over how to return the fishermen, who are reported to have said they wish to return home, Takesada added.

— With assistance by Emi Nobuhiro

Philippine Navy at fault in death of 2 Vietnamese fishermen, probe finds

October 1, 2017
Investigators cited a 1999 ruling of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea as it found that the Philippine Navy was at fault for the deaths of the Vietnamese fishermen, a source told Vera FIles. The ITLOS ruling states that: “In the conduct of arrest, use of excessive and unreasonable force in stopping and arresting a vessel such as firing with live ammunition using shots from large–caliber automatic guns must be avoided, and where force is unavoidable, it must not go beyond what is reasonable and necessary in the circumstances.”  Vera Files

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy is at fault in the death of two fishermen during a sea chase in the waters of Pangasinan on September 22, a source privy to the investigation of the incident said.

Investigators, the source said, cited a 1999 ruling of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) that states: “In the conduct of arrest, use of excessive and unreasonable force in stopping and arresting a vessel such as firing with live ammunition using shots from large–caliber automatic guns must be avoided, and where force is unavoidable, it must not go beyond what is reasonable and necessary in the circumstances.”

READ: 2 Vietnamese dead, 5 arrested in chase with Philippine Navy

The Philippine Coast Guard, which is investigating the incident, took note that the incident happened 39 nautical miles off Bolinao in Pangasinan, which was within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines, the source further said.

“Under the Law of the Sea Convention, in the EEZ, the Philippines does not have Sovereignty but only Sovereign Rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources found therein. This means that the Philippines cannot enforce its laws including the Revised Penal Code except only its laws and regulations relating to fisheries and marine environmental protection,” explained the source.

The Philippine Navy announced September 26 that the officers involved in the incident were relieved as the Department of Foreign Affairs assured Vietnam a fair and thorough investigation into the deaths.

“We would like to offer our sympathies over the unfortunate loss of life and give you our assurance that we will conduct a fair and thorough investigation into this matter,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said.

READ: Philippines to probe death of 2 Vietnamese fishermen in sea chase

The VERA Files source said based on the interview with the Vietnamese fishing boat captain, at about 11 in the evening on September 22, while the Vietnamese fishing boat was anchored 39 nautical miles off Bolinao, an unidentified vessel sailed towards their direction. Immediately, they cut their anchor net and scampered away towards the direction of Vietnam because they were afraid the approaching vessel was a pirates’ ship.

The Vietnamese heard 10 gunshots fired towards both sides of their fishing boat. It was only after a 30-minute chase, when the pursuing vessel was approximately three to five meters away that it was identified as the BRP Miguel Malvar (PS 19).

“At that very near distance, the PN vessel continued to fire at fishing boat killing two of the six crew who were hiding inside the cargo hold area located at the forward portion of the boat. The Navy officers arrested the remaining fishermen for poaching and brought them to Sual in Pangasinan,” the source said.

A photo of the BRP Miguel Malvar. Vera Files

Maritime expert Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said it is too early to decide whether the Philippine Navy may be sanctioned.

“Whether or not the use of deadly force is justified is a separate question,” he told VERA Files in an interview. “That is supposed to be determined in the investigation,” he added, noting that whether disciplinary actions will be taken against those who fired is separate from poaching.

However, lawyer Romel Bagares, executive director of the Center for International Law, pointed out that the Philippine crew, all state agents, are covered by state immunity.

A case, he said, “may only be proceeded against in a criminal procedure by a Philippine court, unless the Philippines has expressly waived such immunity in favor of a Vietnamese court.”

Bagares added: “The Philippines has the sole and exclusive jurisdiction to do so under established international law.”

“If the Philippines imposes an unreasonable bond for the prompt release of ship and crew and refuses to pay reparations for the two deaths, Vietnam may file the appropriate action before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea,” Bagares said.

What the Navy did as part of its law enforcement was “justified,” as it happened within the 200-nautical mile EEZ of the Philippines, Batongbacal maintained.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Philippines has sovereign rights on its 200 nautical mile EEZ, where the country has exclusive rights to “explore and exploit natural resources” found in the area.

“Any foreign vessel that is found fishing in the (EEZ) is considered to be committing the crime of poaching,” Batongbacal said.

Although sovereign rights are “less than sovereignty,” as Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had earlier said, they retain a country’s exclusive and superior rights above other states.

Sovereignty bestows full rights on a country within the 12-nautical mile stretch of its territorial waters measured from the baseline. Beyond it is the EEZ governed by the Philippines’ sovereign rights, which give power for a country to take measures like arresting vessels and their crews under Article 73 of UNCLOS.

But this distinction is beside the point, Batongbacal said. As far as the law is concerned, the Vietnamese fishermen violated the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, he added.

Under Section 87 of the law, it is unlawful for foreign entities to operate their fishing vessels in Philippine waters. Any entry shall already constitute a prima facie evidence.

“The law already presumes them to be engaged in poaching. It’s the Vietnamese who must show proof that they were not fishing,” Batongbacal said.

The law penalizes offenders with a fine not exceeding $100,000, or P5,093,400, and confiscation of the catch, fishing paraphernalia and vessel.

The VERA Files source, however, said it would be difficult to establish and prove that the Vietnamese fishermen committed poaching because there are circumstances that must first be met before a foreign vessel’s activity can be considered poaching.

Vietnam is an ally of the Philippines, notably when it supported its position against China before the Arbitral Tribunal, which later ruled China’s claim to resources in the South China Sea had no legal basis and its nine-dash line invalid.

In 2015, the Philippines signed a strategic partnership agreement with Vietnam that reaffirmed “their commitment to resolve territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means.”

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, former maritime officer, said in a September 26 press release the incident happened because of the absence of a clear direction in handling the maritime situation.

It “gives us a picture of the dangers and tension in the area amid territorial disputes and competition over resources,” he said.

He called on the administration to come up with a strategy that would provide policies and guide actions for all stakeholders, especially the fishermen.


VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”