Pyongyang sells more fishing rights to China

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Pyongyang sells more fishing rights to China

To get around crushing international sanctions, North Korea sold China rights to fish in the East Sea in addition to selling rights in the Yellow Sea.

According to multiple government sources, Pyongyang’s sale of fishing rights along the northern limit line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea and East Sea has led to a dramatic hike in the number of Chinese vessels in North Korean maritime areas from 250 in 2010 to 2,500 Chinese fishing boats this year. South Korean fishermen are suffering as a result.

“For the past few years, North Korea has been selling rights to fish to Chinese vessel owners in both the Yellow and East Seas,” a government official said. “We understand the North sold fishing rights this year too.”

The government estimates that the North sold this year’s fishing rights to 2,500 Chinese vessels for approximately 82 billion won ($74.5 million), nearly seven times more than 11 billion won for 250 vessels in 2010.

The North first sold fishing rights to China in August 2010 when it allowed Chinese to fish in the East Sea. Under pressure to secure sources of foreign currency, Pyongyang also sold rights to fish in three areas along the NLL in the Yellow Sea in the spring of 2014.

Officials estimate that North Korea expanded the area in the East Sea in which Chinese vessels could fish this year. It is now closer to the NLL.

“In the past, Chinese boats were usually seen in waters near (the North Korean port cites of) Rason or Chongjin,” said another government official, noting that recently nearly 900 Chinese vessels can be seen on any given day just north of the NLL in the East Sea.

“With worn-out vessels and not much fuel to spare, it is virtually impossible for North Korean fishermen to fish in far-flung areas,” said the source. “Under such circumstances, the North appeared to have concluded that it would be good business to sell their fishing rights to the Chinese.”

The North’s massive selling of fishing rights is taking a toll on South Koreans.

“Because Chinese fishermen catch fish using a wide net, their way of fishing depletes fish resource here… We have seen a dramatic fall in the number of hauled fish,” said Lee, who owns a fishing boat for squid in Pohang, North Gyeongsang.

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