Nereus Network members Katherine Seto (UC Santa Cruz) and Quentin Hanich (University of Wollongong) co-authored the new ground-breaking study “Illuminating dark fishing fleets in North Korea”. This study sheds a bright light on illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing taking place as we speak. Hundredths of Chinese fishing vessels have illegally caught more than half a billion dollars with of squid in North Korean waters since 2017. This new research uses satellite technology, on-water observations and machine learning to track unreported vessels demonstrating the ongoing need for a better understanding about the hidden dynamics that contribute to IUU worldwide. Political barriers and conflict hinder international cooperating, transparency and efficient fisheries management. Satellite technology and data sharing is crucial for the implementation of solutions, however “to ensure safe, legal, and sustainable fishing, regional cooperation and a renewed focus on transparency and reporting are necessary.”


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.


Park, P., Lee. J., Seto, K., Hochberg, T., Wong, B. A., Miller, N. A., Takasaki, K., Kubota, H., Oozeki, Y., Doshi, S., Midzik, M., Hanich, Q., Sullivan, B., Woods, P., & Kroodsma, D. A. (2020) Illuminating dark fishing fleets in North Korea. Science Advances, 6, 30. link.

The above summary was adapted from this article. 

As Chinese vessels fish North Korean waters, North Korean boats move further north towards Russia.

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