Japan’s seafood sustainability efforts celebrated at TSSS 2021

NGOs, government agencies, and businesses gathered online to discuss policies, trends, and challenges in sustainable fishery resource use at the Tokyo Seafood Sustainability Summit.

NGOs, government agencies, and businesses gathered online to discuss policies, trends, and challenges in sustainable fishery resource use at the Tokyo Seafood Sustainability Summit (TSSS), 10 to 13 October.

The event, previously called the Tokyo Sustainable Seafood Symposium, has taken place annually since 2015. It is sponsored by Seafood Legacy Co. and Nikkei Business Publications, Inc. and supported financially by co-sponsors the Walton Family Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Notable speakers at the event were United Nations Special Envoy on the Oceans Peter Thomson; Japanese Fisheries Agency Deputy Director-General Takashi Koya; David and Lucile Packard Foundation Deputy Director for Oceans Meg Caldwell; and United Nations Environment Program Finance Initiative Special Advisor Takejiro Sueyoshi.

In his speech, Thomson encouraged the World Trade Organization to end fishing subsidies that encourage overcapacity of industrial fishing vessels. He said that at the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China, taking place between 25 April and 8 May, 2022, the global target for marine protected areas will be increased from the current 10 percent to 30 percent of the oceans. In response to this initiative, Thomson urged the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to designate more of the Southern Ocean as a marine protected area. In closing, he called on countries that have not already done so to ratify and enforce the Port State Measures Agreement, which allows port visits to be denied and for inspections to be conducted on vessels suspected of illegal, unreported, or unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Koya gave a roadmap for Japanese fishery growth, starting with two goals of the recent fishery reform: Growth of the industry and appropriate resource management.

“Some may think those two are contradictory – the fishing industry for a long time had the attitude that if the resource management is too stringent, it may impede the growth. But that is not the case. By managing the resource appropriately, we can transform the industry into a growth industry,” he said.

Koya said he supports harvest control rules based on total allowable catch (TAC) for the inshore fishery and vessel quotas for the offshore fishery, which he said would allow for larger, more comfortable, and more efficient vessels. The number of species in Japan with stock evaluation and numerical targets has increased from 50 in 2018 to 192 currently. As Japan’s population is in decline, he said Japan should look to export more of its seafood catch.

Caldwell said the David and Lucile Packard Foundation has begun to place a stronger focus on social issues such as unsafe working conditions, forced labor, and human trafficking. It is also paying more attention to how conservation measures impact the income and livelihoods of fishers.

“Too often, our work to improve sustainability of the fishery resources they depend on has resulted in financial burdens, rather than human well-being benefits to these communities,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell promoted the Monterey Framework for Social Responsibility, which is now integrated with the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions’ Common Vision for Sustainable Seafood and the Seafood Certification and Ratings Collaboration’s Framework for Social Responsibility, and is supported by more than two-dozen businesses and over 25 nonprofit organizations.

Sueyoshi talked about how financial agencies, financial services institutions, and major investors and asset managers like BlackRock are now considering environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) in lending and insurance decisions, based on the Principles of Responsible Investment. He said  environmental risk is increasingly being considered as a financial risk. Carbon-dioxide emissions have been the main focus so far, but this movement is rapidly changing how the seafood industry obtains financing.

The second day of the conference began with a panel discussion from SeaBOS, a group of 10 large “keystone companies” in the seafood industry, along with their scientific partners at several of the world’s leading universities. The group is focused on eliminating IUU fishing and forced labor, reducing ocean plastics, and reducing antibiotic use in aquaculture in order to prevent the development of resistant strains of pathogens.

The day continued with a dive into how the U.N. Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) is partnering with financial institutions to integrate sustainability measures into investment and financing decisions.

On last day of the conference, the focus was distribution, production, and sustainable procurement policies. Purchasers from Hilton Hotels and for supermarket chains Ito-Yokado, the Japanese Consumers Co-operative Union, and TOPVALU spoke about how their companies have increased their sales of certified sustainable seafood. The JCCU noted that the suspension of Marine Stewardship Council certification for Atlantic mackerel caused its percentage of certified seafood to decline from 20 to 12 percent in 2020, but said it hopes to restore the percentage to over 20 percent by 2025.

In a panel discussion on certification of salmon aquaculture operations, Maruha Nichiro Aquaculture Section Certification Coordinator Yuta Hamasaki said the wheat used in feed for his company’s Aquaculture Stewardship Council-certified feed had to be sourced from Japan because it is too difficult to trace the origin of wheat sourced from the U.S.A., where it is treated as a commodity. Kosuke Suzuki, Japan Salmon Farm President Kosuke Suzuki and FRD Japan COO Tetsuro Sogo spoke about the opportunities they see for small-scale Japanese land-based salmon farmers in Japan’s domestic market. Non-Japanese companies are making massive investments in land-based salmon farms in Japan, partially because they don’t face the hurdle of having to obtain fishing rights, and partially because of Japan’s seafood-loving population, Sogo said. Enough production is coming online that it will eventually affect the prices, he said.

The Japan Sustainable Seafood Awards, begun in 2019 to recognize sustainability efforts, were given this year in three categories. The Leadership Award went to the Japan Consumers’ Co-operative Union (JCCU), which launched its house brand CO-OP Sustainable series that uses sustainable products as its main ingredients. The Collaboration Award went to the Japan Offshore Pole-and-Line Tuna Fishery Sustainability Council, which acquired MSC certification for the Kochi and Miyazaki offshore pole-and-line albacore and skipjack fishery in June of this year. A Special Award went to Tokyo Prefecture and Sailors for the Sea, which has designed a seafood sustainability guidebook for Japanese consumers.

Photo courtesy of Tokyo Seafood Sustainability Summit 


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