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Illegal fishing in Sea of Japan by Sakurako Yoshioka March 16,2017   |  Source: NHK

One of Japan's richest fishing grounds is being frequented by vessels of unknown origin, sparking concerns of overfishing.

In the middle of the Sea of Japan is an area called Yamatotai. It's located within Japan's exclusive economic zone, the area around the country where only Japanese ships are allowed to fish. Warm and cold currents converge there, and it's famous as one of Japan's richest fishing grounds.

But local fishermen noticed a change last October. Since then, they've been spotting fishing boats of unknown origin on a daily basis. Sometimes more than 200 suspicious ships are sighted in a single day -- an unprecedented number.

The ships are suspected of fishing illegally for Japanese flying squid, which has been rising in price. So where do they come from?

We headed to the town of Noto by the Sea of Japan to meet some of the fishermen who frequently report such sightings. Noto is home to one of the country’s leading ports, which handles more than 5,000 tons of squid every year.

Takanobu Fuchu is the captain of a local ship. Since last fall, he's seen many suspicious ships in Japan’s sea zone -- too many to count, in fact. As a fisherman for over 30 years, he’s never seen anything like this before.

A radar image of the Yamatotai area recorded last


© NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation)

Theme(s): Fishing Craft, Gear and Fishing Methods.

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