Oceana Says New Study Exposing Rampant Illegal Fishing in North Korean Waters is ‘Only the Tip of the Iceberg’ - Oceana USA

Oceana Says New Study Exposing Rampant Illegal Fishing in North Korean Waters is ‘Only the Tip of the Iceberg’

Group Calls on Countries to Make their Vessel Tracking Data Public to the World through Global Fishing Watch

Press Release Date: July 22, 2020

Location: Washington, DC


Dustin Cranor, APR, Megan Jordan | email: dcranor@oceana.org, mjordan@oceana.org | tel: 954.348.1314, 202.868.4061


In a new study published today in the journal Science Advances, researchers reveal widespread illegal fishing by dark fleets — vessels that do not publicly broadcast their location or appear in public monitoring systems — operating in the waters between the Koreas, Japan and Russia, some of the world’s most disputed and poorly managed waters. The study, “Illuminating Dark Fishing Fleets in North Korea,” found hundreds of vessels of Chinese origin likely violating United Nations sanctions by fishing in North Korean waters. Oceana is calling on countries to make their vessel tracking data public to the world through Global Fishing Watch, an independent nonprofit founded by Oceana in partnership with Google and SkyTruth, which uses cutting-edge technology to interpret data from various ship tracking resources.

Oceana reacted to the new study with the following statements:  

Jacqueline Savitz, Chief Policy Officer:
“This groundbreaking study exposes the massive amount of illegal fishing and loss of human life that can be perpetrated by a ‘dark fleet’ without public knowledge. Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg, thanks to weak international fishing laws and lax enforcement. Tools like the Global Fishing Watch mapping platform can shine a spotlight on illegal fishing vessels and dark fleets that are otherwise not visible. With this transparency, we can see the devastating impacts that can be inflicted on our oceans and on fishermen themselves when there is no oversight, enforcement or due process.”

Andrew Sharpless, Chief Executive Officer:
“All honest fishing companies should operate completely in the open — fully visible to everyone, all the time, via satellite. This report proves that bad things happen when ‘dark fleets’ are allowed to operate. Daylight is a great deterrent to bad actors, and a huge boon to the law enforcers and the honest fishers they protect. If you’re fishing and you’re not trackable, it should be the same as driving a car without a license plate. You should get pulled over by the police.”

For more information about Oceana’s campaign to increase transparency at sea, please click here.