August 17, 2020 By Ian Urbina
After exhausting areas close to home, China’s vast fishing fleet has moved into the waters of other nations, depleting fish stocks. More than seafood is at stake, as China looks to assert itself on the seas and further its geo-political ambitions, from East Asia to Latin America.
For years, no one knew why dozens of battered wooden “ghost boats” — often along with corpses of North Korean fishermen whose starved bodies were reduced to skeletons — were routinely washing ashore along the coast of Japan.
A recent investigation I did for NBC News, based on new satellite data, has revealed, however, what marine researchers now say is the most likely explanation: China is sending a previously invisible armada of industrial boats to illegally fish in North Korean waters, forcing out smaller North Korean boats and leading to a decline in once-abundant squid stocks of more than 70 percent. The North Korean fishermen washing up in Japan apparently ventured too far from shore in a vain search for squid and perished.
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