Russian authorities seize Japanese boat belonging to fishery co-op

The fishery co-operative says the boat was operating in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, a claim disputed by Russian authorities

A fishing boat belonging to a Japanese co-operative has been seized by Russian authorities in waters off Hokkaido on 28 May.

The boat, which had 14 sailors on board, was taken to Korsakov in Sakhalin after being inspected by Russian authorities. The fishery co-operative told Japan Times the boat had been operating in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, called the seizure “unreasonable” and asked for the immediate release of the 14 crew members.  

However, the Russian border security agency claims the Japanese vessel had entered Russia’s exclusive economic zone and illegally fished crab there. The agency told Japan Times that warning shots had been fired to prevent the fishing boat from escaping. According to NHK WORLD – JAPAN, different kinds of crab were find onboard during an inspection.

The boat informed the Japan Coast Guard that Russian authorities used tear gas prior to the vessel’s detention.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato confirmed the safety of all sailors on board of the boat during a press conference on 31 May. He said the Japanese government had used diplomatic channels to “protest and to communicate that Russia’s pursuit, search, taking and detention of the ship is unacceptable”.

He said Japan demanded that crew members and the vessel be released immediately, arguing that the ship had been operating inside Japan’s economic waters.

The two countries have had disputes over fishing rights in the past.