Supplies from the North Korean fishing industry are normalizing, with the sector exceeding its 2014 target by more than 340 percent, according to a report by pro-North Japanese media outlet Chosun Sinbo.
While large percentages like this are common in the fishing sector, analysis of Chinese trade data going back to 2011 shows a steadily increasing trend, both in terms of volumes shipped and value of the exports.
“These kinds of percentages are usual in the fishing industry, as it is tricky to predict production volumes due to the fluctuating weather conditions,” Kwon Tae-jin at the GS&J Institute, North Korea, Far-East Asia Research team told NK News.
“For the past few years the North Korean fishery supply increased enormously, and the exports to China increased as well.”
According to the customs data, North Korean imports increased 22 percent between 2011 and 2014, with the majority of the increase occurring last year. The majority of the exported sea food products were squid and cuttlefish.
The exports to China each year exhibit a similar pattern, peaking in the summer months and falling to yearly lows in February.
The Chosun Sinbo article attributes the increase to the implementation of numerous projects in the fishing industry last year. It goes on to say that the domestic production will first be distributed among orphans, those involved in heavy industry, factory and nursing home workers.
Kwon, however, told NK News that since Kim Jong Un came to power North Korean fishermen have been able to sell part of their catches on both domestic and foreign markets.
“As the market is more active these days, fishermen try to work more to get the money in the markets,” Kwon said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to have taken special interest in North Korean fishing, saying in his 2014 address that the steps should be taken to “bolster the fishing sector,” calling for the implementation of farming and modernization.
According to the KCNA Watch data tool, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) articles mentioning North Korean fishing increased sharply after the speech, hitting an all-time high in May last year.
Ship tracking website Marine Traffic only has 10 North Korean fishing vessels listed in its database, but many ships used in the North Korean fishing sector would likely be too small to require being fitted with an AIS transmitter.
In November last year the Telegraph reported that some of North Korea’s fishing sector increases could be due to squid poaching in Japanese waters. The article claimed that 400 squid boats had been seen fishing in the area in 11 months, up from 110 in 2013.
Additional reporting by HaYoung Choi in Seoul
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Featured Image: Fishermen On Small Boats, Chilbo Sea, North Korea by Eric Lafforgue on 2010-05-01 08:38:59