Daily NK recently acquired a video showing a number of North Korean fishing boats sailing from Sinuiju out to sea.
“North Korean vessels were observed heading out to sea from Sinuiju on June 26,” a source in China told Daily NK on July 9. “North Korean authorities had issued a prohibition on fishing due to COVID-19, but it appears that the ban was lifted at the end of June.”
The source explained that the movement of fishing vessels signifies that North Korean trading companies are trying to catch fish to earn foreign currency, and that the companies are having to do whatever it takes to fill their quotas.
It remains to be seen, however, whether trading companies will be able to turn much of a profit from fishing. The source pointed out that Chinese fishing boats have already entered North Korean waters and have snapped up most of the fish.
“It’s not fishing season right now, but [North Korean fishing boats] have been ordered to catch fish at all costs,” the source said, noting, “People are saying that North Korean vessels won’t be able to catch as much as they would like because Chinese boats have already depleted the fish stocks.”
In May, Daily NK reported that so many Chinese fishing vessels had entered North Korean waters illegally to fish that North Korean patrol vessels were having trouble pushing them out. The Chinese were taking advantage of the fact that North Korea had ordered its fleet to stop fishing as part of efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Daily NK’s source in China noted that fish stocks in North Korean waters had increased because North Korean fishing activities had been cut by around ⅓ compared to pre-pandemic levels.
NO FISH LEFT
North Korean fishermen are reportedly grumbling that there is no fish left to catch in North Korean waters because of Chinese fishing activities, so they may have to head to South Korean waters to catch anything.
“North Korean trading companies don’t just want to catch fish – they want to sell their catch to the Chinese,” the source said, adding, “The Ministry of State Security [MSS] is cracking down more on smuggling, so I’m not sure how they would be able to do this.”
North Korean fishing crews have long met up with Chinese boats in open waters at night to illegally sell their catch to earn extra cash. They now face more difficulties in doing this because North Korea recently intensified its crackdowns on smuggling across the Sino-North Korean border.
Daily NK reported last month that all vessels traveling on the Yalu River must have an MSS agent on board.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also called on the MSS to strengthen surveillance over illegal activities, including smuggling, on the border at a politburo meeting held earlier this month.
The source speculated that fish caught by North Korean ships will nonetheless “show up soon at markets in Dandong or other nearby Chinese cities.”
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