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Russia releases fishing crew from straying boat

RUSSIAN authorities yesterday released all 10 Japanese crew members seized aboard a fishing boat in late January after it allegedly strayed into Russian waters, Japanese officials said.

The crew was cleared to leave in the afternoon and was making final preparations to depart the port of Nakhodka in far eastern Russia, said Tomonori Hasegawa, Japan's acting consul general in nearby Vladivostok.

The crab fishing boat No. 38 Yoshimaru was stopped off the northern coast of the Noto Peninsula on January 27. The Russian coast guard told Japanese officials the boat was seized because it was operating illegally in an exclusive Russian economic zone.

Seizures of Japanese fishing boats by Russian authorities in disputed waters between Japan's northern island of Hokkaido and the Russian-held Kurils are not uncommon, although the latest incident occurred several hundred kilometers away.

Crew members remained on the vessel during the 11-day seizure and will head back to Japan's western prefecture of Tottori, Hasegawa said.

The president of Hiyoshi Suisan, a seafood processor that owns the boat, announced on Thursday the crew would be released after the company paid an undisclosed fine to Russian officials as part of a negotiated agreement to release the vessel and crew, according to Kyodo news agency.


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