Tokyo, Jan. 29 (Jiji Press) — Bluefin tuna catches in coastal waters off Japan have been sluggish so far in the current fishing season between July 2018 and March this year.
This is apparently because many fishers have curbed operations following the introduction this season of stricter rules designed to tackle overfishing, with the total amount of catches standing at some 40 pct of the upper limit.
Bluefin tuna, used for sushi and other cuisine, is a delicacy for Japanese.
An upper limit is set for each of the country’s 47 prefectures, on the basis of factors including past catches. This season, the total amount of catches of bluefin tuna weighing less than 30 kilograms each came to 651 tons in all prefectures as of Jan. 21, against the combined limit of 1,528.7 tons, and that of tuna weighing 30 kilograms or over stood at 480.4 tons, against the cap of 1,125.2 tons, according to the Fisheries Agency.
Bluefin tuna catches “are unlikely to surge during the remaining period” because the peak of the fishing season has already been over in many areas, an official of the agency suggested.
Of all prefectures, only Chiba, east of Tokyo, has seen its catches top its limit, for tuna weighing less than 30 kilograms. The catch amount came to 39.4 tons, against the limit of 36.3 tons.
“We had refrained from active fishing toward the end of last year, when bluefin tuna would be traded at high prices, but catches at year-end turned out to be poor,” said a fisher in the northeastern prefecture of Aomori.
Japan started to set prefecture-by-prefecture maximum catch quotas in 2016 for bluefin tuna weighing less than 30 kilograms.
But many fishers continued overfishing or engaged in inappropriate fishing activities. Catches in Hokkaido in the season from July 2017 to June last year were about seven times greater than the maximum quota set for the northernmost prefecture.
To cope with the situation, the agency started this season to punish offenders and set prefectural catch limits also for bigger bluefin tuna.
“Many fishers are unaccustomed to following such quotas,” the Aomori fisher said, however, citing the need to create a system allowing prefectures whose catches are close to their limits to receive unused portions from prefectures with catches well below their quotas.