Japan’s first red sea bream AIP launched

Published on
July 3, 2020

The first aquaculture improvement project (AIP) in Japan focusing on red sea bream was launched on 30 June, involving two farms owned and operated by Urata Suisan, based in Goshoura Town in the Amakusa Islands of Kumamoto Prefecture.

Kumamoto boasts the nation’s second-highest annual production volume of farmed red sea bream in Japan – roughly 10,000 metric tons – with the species accounting for more than half of the prefecture’s farmed fish production. It is often farmed alongside yellowtail, which makes up most of the other half of the prefecture’s production. However, red sea bream (madai in Japanese) is not exported as much; it is mainly served broiled whole at celebrations, though it is also a sashimi or sushi item.

An AIP is a stepwise approach toward Aquaculture Stewardship Council certification. It involves an analysis against the ASC standard, typically using an ASC pre-assessment. An action plan is then developed and implemented to bridge any gaps, with progress tracked using a benchmarking tool. The process may carry through to a full ASC assessment. Urata Suisan aims to achieve certification in 2021.

Improvements to be implemented through the AIP include monitoring of environmental impacts of net cages to the surrounding ecosystem and habitats; ensuring sustainability of fish feed and smolt; management of diseases and parasites; and development of social responsibility policies and guidelines.

AIPs are undertaken as a collaborative effort between multiple stakeholders including producers, distributors, and NGOs. In this project, the company is collaborating in the project with the Kumamoto Seawater Culture Fisheries Cooperative Association and Seafood Legacy, a Tokyo-based consultancy that forms links between sustainability NGOs and private companies.

“We strive for this project to be a positive model that will lead to prosperity for the participants and its region, and contribute to the growth strategy for the domestic aquaculture industry in Japan,” Seafood Legacy Vice President and COO Shunji Murakami said in a press release.  

There is currently one other sea bream farm progressing toward ASC certification, though not via the AIP route. The ASC website lists Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture-based Dainichi Corporation subsidiary Uchiumi Suisan Co., Ltd. as being in the assessment stage for red sea bream (Pagrus major).

Photo courtesy of Seafood Legacy

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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