Japanese saury fishing boat off Hokkaido is checked then escorted to Russian-held island of Kunashiri

JIJI

A Japanese saury fishing boat was inspected by the Russian border guard service while operating off Hokkaido and taken to one of the four Russian-controlled islands at the center of the two countries’ long-standing territorial row.

According to officials of the Fisheries Agency and a saury fishing cooperative in Tokyo, the on-site inspection of the No. 63 Fukuju Maru was conducted Thursday when it was operating at a point some 320 km (about 200 miles) southeast of the city of Nemuro, in eastern Hokkaido.

The 199-ton fishing boat, carrying 17 crew members, was taken to Furukamappu, which is known as Yuzhno-Kurilsk in Russian, on the island of Kunashiri by the border guard service on Friday, and further inspections were carried out on the ship until Saturday morning, the officials said.

While the Fukuju Maru, from the town of Akkeshi on the south coast of Hokkaido, was operating in accordance with a Japan-Russian fishery pact, the Russian side suspects there may be gaps between saury catch amounts recorded in the ship’s daily logs and its actual total amount, according to the officials.

The Fisheries Agency was informed of the incident through the cooperative around 7:20 p.m. Thursday.

The crew members remain on board the ship and have access to a radio for communications. There have been no reports about any health problems among the crew members, officials said.

Kunashiri, Shikotan and Etorofu, three islands in the northwestern Pacific, as well as the Habomai Islet group, off eastern Hokkaido, were seized from Japan by the former Soviet Union in the closing days of World War II.