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The number of Chinese boats allegedly illegally fishing for flying squid has been increasing rapidly in Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off Ishikawa Prefecture's Noto Peninsula.

In the first nine months of this year, 2,586 Chinese fishing boats received warnings from the Fisheries Agency to leave the Yamatotai area in the Sea of Japan, nearly four times more than a year before.

Yamatotai is known as a plentiful fishing area for flying squid and snow crabs, and is an area in which illegal operations by foreign fishing boats have frequently happened.

In October last year, a North Korean fishing boat sank after a collision with a Fisheries Agency patrol ship.

This year, only a few North Korean fishing boats have been found around the area.

Still, a North Korean government ship was spotted in the EEZ on Sept. 29, prompting the Japanese government to ask Japanese fishermen to refrain from operating there to help ensure their safety.

The North Korean ship's purpose remains unclear, but some believe that the ship came to the area to assist fishing by Chinese boats, as North Korea is believed to have been selling fishery rights to China.

Japanese fishermen cannot operate in the western part of Yamatotai due to a government request. "Why do we have to refrain from fishing in our territorial waters?" asked a fishery cooperatives official in Hyogo Prefecture.

It is uncertain when the government's request will be lifted, as the North Korean ship is apparently still sailing around the area.

"This is an extremely unusual situation," said Hiroshi Kishi, head of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations.

"We want the government to bring order to the area so that we can operate without worrying," Kishi said.

Fishery minister Kotaro Nogami on Friday said, "We'll cooperate with related government agencies, including the Japan Coast Guard" to address the issue.

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