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International relations

Russia releases 5 Japanese fishing boats seized off Hokkaido

Crews fined for allegedly exceeding catch quotas in waters near disputed islands

VLADIVOSTOK (Kyodo) -- Russia released Tuesday five Japanese fishing boats seized in waters off Hokkaido in mid-December, a lawyer for the vessels' crews said.

The release came after a Russian court ordered crews of the boats to pay a fine for violating regulations on the size of the catch Japanese vessels can take from waters around the Russian-held, Japan-claimed islands.

The lawyer for the Japanese fishermen said they have no health problems after their boats, which operate out of a port in the city of Nemuro in Hokkaido, were taken to Kunashiri Island, one of the four disputed islands.

The seizure of the five boats, which were operating under a bilateral accord on fishing around the islands, occurred on Dec. 17, with Russian border authorities suspecting there were discrepancies between the size of the catch taken by the boats and figures recorded in their daily logs.

The Russian authorities said the following day they confirmed the amount of octopus caught by the boats exceeded the recorded figures by more than 6 tons.

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