How should Japan’s fishing industry be reinvigorated? To strengthen its competitiveness, it is necessary to conduct an effective review of regulations.
The government has compiled measures to reform the fishing industry, whose central pillars include encouraging private-sector companies to enter the fish-farming business. It plans to submit a bill to the extraordinary Diet session this autumn to revise related laws.
Under the reforms, fishery rights, which fishermen’s cooperatives and local fishermen have effectively monopolized, are also to be made available to companies that have not belonged to any fishermen’s cooperatives. If there are any “fishing grounds that have not been effectively utilized,” Tokyo and other prefectural governments, at their own discretion, will give companies the right to run aquaculture operations there.
Due to such influences as the shortage of people engaged in fishery activities, in line with the aging population, aquaculture production has been sluggish. It’s considered appropriate to aim to make farm-fishing operations more efficient, or to increase the scale of their operations, by opening the door to companies with technology and financial strength.
It has been difficult in postwar Japan to newly enter the farm-fishing business, with fishery rights being a huge obstacle. It is commendable that the government will embark on the reforms, and open windows into the long-standing vested interests of the industry.
It is a matter of concern that criteria have yet to be clarified regarding how to identify fishing grounds that have not been effectively utilized.
It remains unclear how many companies will actually enter this business and help boost the productivity of aquaculture.
Set objective criteria
As to the fishing grounds to be made accessible to companies, prefectural governments will decide based on a fact-finding survey. There are fears that fishermen’s cooperatives and local fishermen who do not want to lose their fishing rights will strongly oppose such a move, making prefectural governments reluctant to open the doors to companies.
The government needs to set objective criteria regarding the fishing grounds’ status of utilization, thus facilitating entry.
It will also be important, following the revisions of the laws, to examine the effect of eased regulations, and, if they are found to be insufficient, to promote further the opening of the fishing grounds.
The reform measures also incorporate the idea of reinforcing the limits on fish catches, so as to be able to continue catching fish into the future.
There are currently annual caps on catches, but only for eight kinds of seafood, including saury. The kind of fish subject to this annual quota is to be increased in stages. A system of allocating the maximum catch for each fishing vessel will also be introduced.
Under the current system, which mainly limits the total allowable catch for each prefecture, those who catch fish earlier than others win out, which tends to invite overfishing.
Should the limits be changed to apply to each fishing vessel, systematic fishing operations can be made possible, such as catching fish at a time when fish have grown sufficiently. It is hoped that this will make fishing more profitable.
Against the backdrop of the economic growth of emerging-market economies, such as China, the consumption of fish has been rising globally. There are not a few of those fish species whose resources have declined markedly, such as tuna.
In order to convert the fishing industry into one of sustainable growth, it is essential for Japan, a large consumer of fish, to assume international obligations regarding the protection of resources.