MATSUE, SHIMANE PREFECTURE – A Japanese crab-fishing boat detained by Russian authorities in late January over alleged illegal fishing returned to its home port Sunday.
“I’m sorry for my family. I’m relieved that we’ve been able to come back,” Hideji Kagami, the 52-year-old captain of the Nishino Maru No. 68, said after arriving at a port in Sakaiminato, Tottori Prefecture, along with nine other crew members.
Russian authorities said the boat’s fishing in its exclusive economic zone caused economic damage estimated to be worth at least 39 million rubles (¥66 million).
The boat’s operator paid a bond equivalent to that amount — including a fine — but a lawyer for the company told reporters the crew members were “not aware that the Nishino Maru was operating illegally.”
According to the lawyer, the boat’s operator — of which Kagami is president — did not admit to committing any offense, and that it still disputes the allegations made by Russia.
After leaving the port in western Japan on Jan. 26, the boat was seized in the Sea of Japan on Jan. 30.
Russian border security authorities have said they found 7.5 tons of crab on the boat even though the crew members did not have the correct documents for fishing.