Some 500 North Korean ghost ships, some with skeletons inside, have washed ashore in Japan in the past five years.
Last year, a boat was discovered with two human heads inside as well as the decomposing remains of five other bodies after is came ashore on Sado Island.
It had been a mystery as to why the boats continued to run ashore, but it appears an answer has finally been found.
According to Global Fishing Watch (GFW) and NBC News, the shipwrecks could be happening due to Chinese vessels being sent to fish illegally in North Korea’s waters.
Its report claims the illegal fishing operations to travel out further to sea – risking their lives in unsafe boats and then being swept away by strong waves and dying at sea.
Japan’s coastguard said more than 50 North Koreans have washed up on beaches in the past two years.
Jungsem Lee, who works at the Korea Maritime Institute, told the Guardian: “Competition from the industrial Chinese trawlers is likely displacing the North Korean fishers, pushing them into neighbouring Russian waters.
“The North Koreans’ smaller wood boats are ill-equipped for this long-distance travel.”
Researchers used data from satellites in order to get a grip on what was happening out at sea – which it believes could point to a violation of UN sanctions that forbid fishing in North Korean waters.
Jaeyoon Park, a senior data scientist at GFW said it could be the largest known case of illegal fishing in the world.
He told the publication: “The scale of the fleet involved in this illegal fishing is about one-third the size of China’s entire distant-water fishing fleet.
“It is the largest known case of illegal fishing perpetrated by vessels originating from country operating in another nation’s water.”
Following the publishing of the report, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs told NBC: “China has consistently and conscientiously resolution of the UN Security Council relating to North Korea.”