The analysis of satellite images has been revealed to show that Chinese “dark fleets” have illegally caught 440 million U.S. dollars worth of squid in North Korea’s East Sea, which is under the United Nations (U.N.) sanctions, for about two years. Dark fleets refer to illegal and unlicensed ships that do not send their locations nor appear on a public monitoring system. The findings have been achieved from international research led by South Korean data scientists and international non-governmental organizations. The research has also confirmed that small-scale fishermen were pushed further out into the ocean due to the illegal fishing vessels.
Non-profit private research organization Global Fishing Watch, Korea Maritime Institute, Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency (FRA), and the University of California have published the precision analysis results of satellite images in the journal Science Advances on Wednesday to demonstrate that Chinese vessels have conducted the world’s largest illegal fishing from 2017 to 2018.
A research team, including senior data scientist Park Jae-yoon at Global Fishing Watch, has focused their monitoring efforts on squid fishing ships that entered the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of North Korea in 2017 and 2018. Many of them are suspected to be dark fleets operating on the coast of China that have entered the East Sea through the South Sea. However, there is no measure to consistently track and monitor them for now. “Dark fleets are very active in the East Sea within North Korean waters, however, their illegal fishing is not being properly monitored due to the lack of cooperation among neighboring countries," said Park. "We chose the East Sea as a place to reveal the comprehensive picture of dark fleets' illegal fishing based on artificial intelligence (AI) and satellite data."
The research team has developed technologies that enable the tracking of illegal fishing vessels under any conditions by combining four different satellite observation technologies. They first utilized a satellite constellation owned by Planet Labs, an American satellite video service provider, to identify pair trawling boats.
The joint research team has identified over 1,600 Chinese illegal fishing vessels by analyzing satellite images collected for two years. The amount of squid caught by them is about 164,000 tons, which is estimated to be worth approximately 440 million dollars. This is almost equivalent to the sum of both South Korea’s and Japan’s squid catch, which officially have the largest squid catch records.