This decision demonstrated that tough fishing catch restrictions contributed to the recovery of a fishery resource. Stocks of bluefin tuna, a species popular as a sushi topping, had plunged at one point in the Atlantic Ocean but are now increasing there. This should be used as a good precedent.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), whose participants include Japan and the European Union, has decided to expand the annual catch quota for Atlantic bluefin tuna by 50 percent over the three years through 2020. Japan’s catch quota will increase by 40 percent.
Overfishing of Atlantic bluefin tuna until the early part of last decade brought the species to the brink of extinction. But strengthened rules adopted by ICCAT helped the resource rebound, and the fishing quota also started to increase from 2013.
This can be called a successful example of fishery resource management based on international cooperation.
Forty percent of bluefin tuna consumed in Japan is caught in the Atlantic. The Fisheries Agency expects the expanded catch quota will lead to lower prices in Japan.
Banning fishing of young bluefin tuna that weigh less than 30 kilograms in principle was a decisive factor in boosting stocks of this resource. Allowing these young tuna to grow and mature resulted in more fish spawning and led to the recovery in the overall volume of tuna.
The decline of bluefin tuna stocks remains severe in the Pacific Ocean, which is another of its fishing grounds. As the consumer of 80 percent of the world’s bluefin tuna catch, Japan bears a grave responsibility for this situation.
Rules must be followed
Fishing rules for Pacific bluefin tuna allow for some young fish to be caught. Some observers believe the catch being hauled in by Japanese coastal fishing operators is problematic.
Japan’s catch of young tuna during the most recent year exceeded the quota, sparking international criticism. There are concerns Japan also might exceed its quota in the next year.
The Fisheries Agency allocates some of Japan’s quota to regional blocs that straddle several prefectures. This led to individual fishery operators engaging in a race to catch tuna before the others, which was an open invitation to overfishing.
Consideration also must be given to allocating a quota to each local government, fisheries cooperative and boat.
A flurry of wrongdoing has been revealed, including Japanese fishermen not reporting catches to fishery cooperatives and operating unapproved fishing boats.
If Japan develops an international reputation for being unable to follow even the present regulations, its influence at ICCAT and other bodies will take a battering.
It is vital that the government, local authorities and fishing cooperatives work together to strengthen the guidance and supervision of fishermen and their work, and to prevent violations from happening.
Some observers say fishing methods such as fixed nets make it difficult to intentionally avoid catching young tuna. Fishing operators should further raise their awareness of the importance of resource conservation.
Global fish consumption is rising against the backdrop of economic growth in nations such as China. Many species of fish, other than tuna, have become noticeably depleted. Japan, as a major fish-eating nation, must stand front and center when it comes to rule-based protection and usage of these resources.