On Feb. 27, the Fisheries Agency presented a proposal to partially revise the method used to control the fishing of juvenile Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) (under 30 kg), amid its across-the-board request for inshore fishing operators to exercise self-restraint in catching these tuna.
The Agency manages tuna fishing by giving each region of operations a quota for the fishing season, which runs from July through June. The new proposal presented at a meeting of the Agency’s deliberative council is to allow regions that keep their catch under the fishing quota during a given fishing season to have the amount remaining in their quota added to their quota for the next fishing season. Moreover, any region that exceeds its quota in a given year will, in principle, have its quota for the next fishing season reduced by the excess amount. This will eliminate any sense of unfairness between areas that do not exceed their quotas and those that do.
As of Feb. 14, some 31 prefectures, including Okinawa and Aomori, have not reached their catch quotas for this season. If they continue to curb the amount of tuna they fish, under the proposal they would be able to add this year’s remainder to their quota for next year. Eight prefectures, however, have already exceeded their quotas. Hokkaido and Kagoshima would have a quota of 0 tons next season, if their overage were simply subtracted from their quota for next year. A quota of a few tons will be set as the minimum necessary, however, in light of the fact that sometimes Pacific bluefin tuna are accidentally caught in nets set to catch other fish.
To date, there has been a limit on how much can be subtracted from a region’s quota for the next year in the event that a prefecture exceeded its quota, and quotas were balanced out over a period of several years.
Japan will soon exceed its national quota for this season, including that for offshore fishing. Because the Agency issued an across-the-board call for fishing operators to exercise self-restraint, those who have not exceeded their quotas and those in areas where the tuna-fishing peak comes later in the season are frustrated, saying the Agency’s call for self-restraint “favors those who overfished” early in the season.