Japan once again nears juvenile bluefin catch limits
Japan’s Fisheries Agency on 23 January requested all coastal fishermen to voluntarily refrain from catching small Pacific bluefin tuna, defined as under 30 kilograms, the Nikkei Shimbun reported.
Japan has a high possibility of exceeding its quota on juvenile bluefin of 3,423.5 metric tons (MT), set by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). As 19 January, the figure had already reached 3200.7 MT, or 90 percent of the total quota.
Japan’s coastal fisheries are managed by its prefectures, with much local decision-making by fisheries cooperative associations. Some prefectural governments had already made similar requests to fishermen, but now the request is being made nationwide. This rankles some prefectures that have not reached their prefecture-set limits, as they must now curtail fishing activities due to excessive catch of juveniles in other prefectures.
In the period July 2016 to June 2017, Japan exceeded the limit it had agreed to, and with the likelihood of missing its targets once again with the current season, it is likely its fisheries management efforts will lose credibility.
As a practical matter, it is difficult to prevent juvenile bycatch, so unless fishing for tuna and mackerel is halted altogether, stricter enforcement could result in increased shipboard discards of juveniles.