For years, no one knew why dozens of battered wooden "ghost boats" were routinely washing ashore along the coast of Japan, often with the bodies of starved North Korean fishermen reduced to skeletons.CNN picked up the story too:
An investigation by the journalism organization The Outlaw Ocean Project based on satellite data collected over the last two years has revealed, however, what marine researchers now say is the most likely explanation: China is sending an armada of industrial boats to illegally fish in North Korean waters, displacing smaller North Korean boats, forcing them farther out to rougher seas, and spearheading a decline in once-abundant squid stocks of more than 70 per cent.
Estimates of the total size of China's global fishing fleet vary widely. By some calculations, China has anywhere from 200,000 to 800,000 fishing boats, accounting for nearly half of the world's fishing activity. The Chinese government says its distant-water fishing fleet, or those vessels that travel far from China's coast, is roughly 2,600 vessels, but other research, such as this study by the U.K. think-tank ODI, puts the number closer to 17,000, with many of these ships operating undetected, in part by turning off the transponders that allow satellites to track them.
By comparison, the United States distant-water fishing fleet has fewer than 300 vessels.
For years, Japan's north coast had been the site of a macabre phenomena: fishing boats washing up on shore carrying the bodies of dead North Koreans, more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from their homeland.
But the numbers in 2017 were unprecedented: More than 100 boats landed on the Japanese coast with 35 bodies on board. Only 66 boats had washed up the year prior.