PORTLAND, Oregon – Japan called again Tuesday for expanding the fishing quota for Pacific bluefin tuna at an international fisheries commission after the proposal was rejected last year.
Deeming that stocks of the fish widely used for sushi and sashimi are recovering, Tokyo is seeking up to a 20 percent increase in national quotas during the session of the Northern Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission being held in Portland through Friday.
“We would like to make efforts so Japan’s proposal for expanding the quotas will be passed,” Shingo Ota of the Fisheries Agency, who heads the Japanese delegation to the talks, told reporters after the session’s Tuesday opening.
It is unclear whether other members will agree to the proposal, particularly as tensions between Japan and South Korea have risen since Japan tightened controls on exports to its Asian neighbor.
Japan’s previous proposal on the fish in the North Pacific was turned down at the commission last year amid opposition from the United States and the Cook Islands, which argued that depleted Pacific bluefin tuna stocks have not recovered sufficiently.
In 2010, the stocks of the fish dropped sharply to a record-low level of 12,000 tons due to overfishing, but they had recovered to about 21,000 tons by 2016 with the help of fishing restrictions.
Japan is seeking to increase the quota for large fish weighing over 30 kilograms by 20 percent, while raising that of smaller fish by 10 percent.
As the WCPFC aims to bring stocks to 43,000 tons by 2024, the focus of the meeting’s discussion is on whether members can still achieve the target if they expand the quota.
The Northern Committee consists of 10 members, but China and three other members were not present at the start of the meeting.
The commission will not fulfill the requirement of having at least eight attending members for reaching a formal agreement if the four members continue to skip the meeting.
The U.S. delegation has suggested changing the rule so meetings can formally adopt agreements no matter how many members are present.