Japan needs to reform their fishing industry


Japan used to be the world’s largest producer. However, the recent exploitation of Japanese fisheries has been severely reduced. The cause of this decline is overfishing; The recovery of the Japanese seafood industry will depend on whether the exploitation is properly regulated or not.

Marine resources decline seriously

In recent times, Japanese bluefin tuna, pelagic, and tuna fishing have reached low yields. This is not a problem this year, but in fact, except for floating fish, Japan’s production has been declining continuously for more than 20 years and is on the decline to zero in 2050.

Japan once had the most competitive mining industry in the world. In 20 years, from 1972 to 1991, Japan ranked first in catch volume. But mining production began to decline markedly in the 1990s, partly due to the rapid decline in herring production. Although herring stocks have begun to recover somewhat in recent years, Japan’s mining productivity continues to decline as other marine resources are declining on a large scale.

According to research by the Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency, the research agency of the Fisheries Agency, many of Japan’s marine resources are at low levels. In a survey of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on fisheries, 90% of respondents said that they felt that resources were more scarce; only 0.6% believe that resources are increasing. Even if Japan wants to increase catches, fisheries resources in Japan’s exclusive economic zone are also very small. As a result, catches are declining, fewer people are active in the profession and the fishing community is aging.

The price paid for overfishing

The chart below can offer a change in the volume of natural catches worldwide and Japan. The productivity of Japan and the world has increased since the 1970s, but in Japan alone, the production started to decline after the 1990s.

At the global level, natural catches are high and remain stable. Aquaculture productivity is increasing rapidly at 6% per year in other countries around the world, but is declining in Japan. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s forecasts on fisheries productivity of major exploiting countries, most developed and developing countries will increase productivity; Japan is the only country with a decline. Why did Japan, once a large mining nation, have such a decline? Looking back on the history of Japanese fisheries during the post-war period there may be some answers.

Government policy encourages the development of the mining industry as a means of reducing food shortages after World War II. At that time, there were no EEZs and Japanese fishing fleets that could exploit fish from the coast of any other country from 5 to 8 km. The waters are located offshore of countries, mainly developing economies, with no strong development of the mining industry. Japan’s mining industry is expanded under the slogan “from the coast to the sea; from offshore to ocean “.

Exploiting resources in a sustainable way is not the primary goal of the Japanese fishing industry at that time. The fleets will catch at many fishing grounds to the point of depleting and catching different species. The government supports the development of untapped marine resources and new fishing grounds. At the peak stage, Japanese fleets reach out to resource-rich fishing grounds off South America, Alaska, New Zealand, Africa and many other parts of the world.

But starting in the second half of the 1970s, when coastline countries began setting up an exclusive economic zone stretching 200 nautical miles (about 370 km) from their coast, Japan could not exploit it at other fishing grounds. Over the years, Japan has continued to exploit wherever possible, depleting its fisheries resources in its exclusive economic zone and pushing the fisheries sector to a recession.

Apply quotas to control overfishing

Quotas are essential to ensure the sustainability of marine resources, but the quota alone is not enough to manage. In the early days, quota management simply put limits on mining output. When the specified quota is reached, fishing will stop. However, this is the beginning of the race to invest more powerful engines to catch within the quota limit. But continually upgrading equipment has made costs so high that it can’t be profitable.

Set individual quota effectively to fix this problem. The assignment of quotas to individuals restraining competition for fry. This helps to increase the value of catches and make fishing businesses more profitable.

japan reform their fishing industry

Fishing countries such as New Zealand, Iceland and Norway have introduced personal quotas in the 1980s and have succeeded in developing fisheries into an industry. Individual quota systems have also been adopted by the United States, the European Union, Peru and many other countries. Japan, which has yet to apply its own quota, is the exception in this respect that could be explained by their failure to fully control the exploitation.

Fisheries Act amended after much waiting

For the first time in 70 years, amendments to the Fishery Act were issued during the extraordinary session in December 2018. These amendments were eventually set by the government to regulate mining operations.

Article 1 of the current Fisheries Act defines the purpose of establishing a basic fisheries production system to increase fisheries productivity and also to democratize the fishing industry.

The original Fisheries Act, reflecting the need to increase food production, stems from a period of post-war food shortages. Its main focus is to develop mining productivity but did not mention the sustainability of resources. This law then became obsolete and ineffective.

The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea admitted that countries have the right to establish a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone off the coast of that country. At the same time, countries must be responsible for managing marine resources in their exclusive economic zones. Many mining countries have revised their seafood laws at that time to strengthen the legal framework to regulate the mining industry.

japan refrom industry fishing

In Japan, the amended law now adds the phrase “ensuring sustainable use of marine resources” for the purpose of the law. Article 6 further states that the government is responsible for the preservation and management of marine resources, as follows: To develop fisheries productivity, the central government, along with the districts, must take responsibility for conservation and management. appropriate management of marine resources and will take necessary measures to prevent and resolve disputes over the use of fishing grounds.

In addition, the quota, currently only applicable to 8 species, will be extended to other species and the government will also introduce its own quota system for all fishing operations. In order to develop its fisheries, Japan has finally accepted the system that other developing countries are applying.

In terms of area, Japan has the sixth largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the world. If Japan can exploit marine resources in a sustainable way, they can regain their position among the world’s leading fishing nations. The revised Fishery Act is a step in that direction, but there are many challenges ahead. Quotas were given for bluefin tuna. However, some individual fishermen deliberately exploited beyond the allocated quota. Therefore, all bluefin tuna fishing activities were stopped for 6 years. This punishment not only affected violators but also others complied and exploited according to quotas, leading to lawsuits against the government. The revised law is a beginning, but still has to wait to see how effective implementation is.

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