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Satellite image of a large-scale lighting vessel in North Korean waters. Credit: Planet

Satellites tasked with keeping an eye on the Earth have helped researchers uncover large-scale illegal fishing operations in North Korean and Russian waters.

Why it matters: Satellite data is giving researchers and governments a bird's eye view of what's happening on Earth, allowing interested parties to see more than they could by just monitoring land and sea from the ground.

Details: More than 900 fishing boats coming from China in 2017 and 700 in 2018 were found illegally fishing in waters off North Korea, according to the study published in Science Advances last month detailing the findings.

  • Those vessels caught more than $440 million worth of Pacific flying squid, according to the study.
  • The satellite data — provided by the company Planet and others — also helped the scientists spot 3,000 North Korean ships fishing in Russian waters in 2018.
  • The study's authors used machine learning and radar data that can pierce clouds to get a holistic view of what was happening at sea.

The intrigue: North Korean "ghost boats" — empty ships or ships with human remains aboard — have been washing up on Japanese shores for years, and the authors of the study now think that these illegal fishing operations are related.

  • Illegal Chinese fishing in North Korean waters may be displacing North Korean fishing boats, which are then fishing in farther-afield areas that they aren't equipped for.
  • "It really indicates that this illegal fishing is not just an ecological or conservation problem, but it also represents a huge crime measurement," Jaeyoon Park, one of the authors of the new study, told me.

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Netanyahu campaigns against Biden's plan to save Iran deal

Netanyahu campaigns at a gym last month. Photo: Pool/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indirectly criticized the Biden administration for its intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal and told his supporters he was prepared to "stand against the entire world" to stop it.

Why it matters: This is a major change of tune for Netanyahu, who had been careful in his statements on the Iran deal and avoided publicly criticizing President Biden. The statement was part of Netanyahu's attempt to rally his base ahead of Israel's election on March 23.

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Why fears of a SPAC bubble may be overblown

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The SPAC surge continues unabated, with 10 new ones formed since Wednesday morning. And that's OK.

Between the lines: There are growing concerns that retail investors are about to get rolled, with smart sponsors taking advantage of dumb money.