4 Japanese fishing boats seizes

Russian authorities seized four Japanese fishing boats in disputed waters off Russia’s Far East over alleged poaching, officials and news reports said on Saturday.

The four boats were intercepted and searched by Russian border patrol boats off the Kamchatka peninsula “in the last several days” and have been taken to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii for further questioning, according to Japanese Foreign Ministry official Minori Okazaki.

Russian authorities found 5.5 tonnes of illegally caught sea produce on one of the boats, Kyodo News agency cited the Russian news agency Interfax as saying. The boats were thought to be fishing for walleye pollock, Kyodo said.

The Japanese government was trying to confirm through its consulate in Vladivostok how the boats were apprehended, what they are being investigated for, and how many people were on board, Okazaki said. The boats seized were the Gyokuryumaru, Yokei Maru No. 5, Dairin Maru No. 5 and Tomi Maru No. 53, he said.

The crew of one of the boats included seven Indonesian nationals and 15 Japanese, Kyodo reported.

Russian authorities have stepped up patrols of the disputed waters between the two countries. Earlier this year, a Russian border patrol fired on a Japanese fishing boat in the disputed waters, killing a fisherman before seizing the vessel and the remaining three crew.

The boat’s captain was returned to Japan last month after being fined for illegal entry into Russian territory and poaching. Tokyo protested Russia’s response to the alleged poaching as too extreme and demanded that the officials responsible for the shooting be punished.

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