June 18 (UPI) -- A South Korean court has ruled a crew of Chinese fishermen should pay more than $250,000 in fines for illegal activities.
Seok Jun-hyup, a judge at Incheon District Court, has fined four Chinese nationals $255,400. Each fisherman is to pay a fine ranging from $42,570 to more than $85,000, Yonhap reported Tuesday.
The Chinese crew is in South Korea detention. Seok has ordered the defendants remain confined to a prison workhouse until the fine is paid, according to the report.
The crew was detained on March 27 in an area 53 miles southeast of Socheong Island, part of the greater Incheon metropolitan area.
The boat was apprehended in a region about a mile into South Korea's exclusive economic zone.
The fishermen had caught 220 pounds of fish, including skate and small fry in South Korean territorial waters when they were detained.
The crew initially did not comply with South Korean coast guard orders and a five-minute chase ensued before they were stopped, according to Yonhap.
The crew is believed to have left from Dalian Port, Liaoning Province, in China before operating illegally in South Korean waters.
In his decision, Seok said Chinese fishing vessels' illegal practices are seriously damaging fishery resources.
Strict penalties are necessary, Seok said.
Illegal fishing by Chinese boats has been a source of diplomatic tension between South Korea and China.
Dozens of Chinese boats were caught fishing illegally in South Korea in 2018 and more than a thousand boats have been ordered to evict, according to South Korea's west coast guard.
International waters close to Korea also continue to be the site of illicit ship-to-ship transfers.
NHK reported Tuesday a blacklisted North Korean tanker was involved in "suspicious activities," six times on May 13 and 14.
Japan's foreign ministry located the tanker and two smaller ships connecting with hoses about 250 miles south of Shanghai, China, according to the report.