On Aug. 8, the Fisheries Agency held a meeting in Tokyo to explain to fisheries representatives its new proposal for catch restrictions on Pacific bluefin tuna [Thunnus orientalis], a popular delicacy used in sushi and sashimi. The agency explained its proposal to adjust the total allowable catch (TAC) based on the probability of reaching the targets set. Some fishermen expressed their hopes for the Fisheries Agency’s negotiations [with its international counterparts], saying, “Our companies won’t be able to stay afloat if things stay as they are.”
A Fisheries Agency representative said: “Japan is being asked by the international community to lower the catch, but we cannot accept further reductions so we incorporated in our proposal a way for quotas to be increased [under certain conditions].” Coastal fishery operators said: “We will start to see many operators close if the current restrictions remain in place. We would like to see them relax stock management.” “We want them to meet fisheries operators’ expectations.”
Japan’s new proposal will be discussed at a meeting of the Northern Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), which will open on Aug. 28 in Busan, South Korea.
Japan, the United States, and Taiwan are members of the WCPFC. The current annual TACs represent a halving of the catches of juvenile Pacific bluefin tuna (weighing less than 30 kg) from the 2002 to 2004 average and a maintenance of the catches of adult Pacific bluefin tuna (30 kg or more) at or under the 2002 to 2004 average. The aim is to rebuild stocks of adult Pacific bluefin tuna from the 16,000 tons recorded in 2014 to 41,000 tons by 2024. Japan’s proposal is to immediately cut current TACs if the probability of reaching the goal is 60% or less and to increase TACs if the probability is more than 65%.
Japan exceeded the cap for juvenile tuna catch for the one-year period through the end of June 2017. An environmental protection group asked, “The international press has reported that Japan topped its cap. How is Japan going to strengthen its [stock] management framework?” The Fisheries Agency replied, “We are developing technology to prevent inadvertent catch of tuna. We will also implement a program to have operators suspend fishing on a rotational basis.” Purse seine fishing operators catch large numbers of adult fish during spawning season, and this is said to hinder stock rebuilding. Some are calling for relevant restrictions to be implemented.