MSC certifies rope-grown oysters in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea

Maruto Suisan Co. Ltd., a company based in the city of Aioi in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, has achieved Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for its sustainable oyster fishery in the Seto Inland Sea. 

An oyster fishery in Okayama Prefecture that grows seed oysters on ropes suspended from rafts off the coast of Okucho was also certified, making it the first MSC-certified rope grown oyster fishery in the world. The fishery caught 1,500 metric tons of oysters in 2018, 80 percent of which came from Okayama seeds.

The oyster fishery operates as an “enhanced fishery,” according to MSC, meaning it supports activities “aimed at supplementing or sustaining the recruitment or improving the survival and growth of one or more aquatic organisms, or at raising the total production or the production of selected elements of the fishery beyond a level that is sustainable by natural processes.” Some enhanced fishery activities that fit the MSC’s definition include stocking, habitat modification, elimination of unwanted species, fertilization, or a combination of practices.

The MSC also outlines the following requirements for an enhanced fishery:

  • Link to a self-sustaining wild stock
  • No substantial augmentation to food supply. In the case of bivalves like oysters, they are feeding in the wild, even though they are growing on ropes.
  • Any habitat modifications are reversible. In the case of rope-grown oysters, those ropes can be removed.

The oyster fishery joins a growing list of MSC-certified fisheries in Japan. Other fisheries include scallops in Hokkaido, as well as skipjack and albacore tuna fisheries in Miyagi and Yaizu.

“Demand for MSC-certified sustainable seafood is seeing rapid growth in Japan. With the increasing adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the sustainability focus at the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, more and more companies in Japan are committing to using sustainable seafood,” Marine Stewardship Council Program Director for Japan Kozo Ishii said. “I am confident this certification will help stimulate and respond to demand for sustainable seafood.”

Maruto Suisan processes and sells oyster products. It decided to pursue MSC certification with local producers and a fisheries cooperative in Okucho because of the growing recognition of the label in Japan.

“As a seafood company promoting oysters, we decided to pursue MSC certification as a group initiative because of our belief in the MSC program, which recognises sustainable, eco-friendly fisheries. We are also aware of the responsibility that comes with providing consumers with MSC-certified oysters. We will remain committed to promoting sustainable fishing practices, firm in our belief that the best way to do so is while engaging with consumers to gain their understanding.” Maruto Suisan President and Representative Director Kimihiro Kokubo said. “Through the assessment process, we were able to engage with numerous stakeholders and form strong ties with the local fisheries cooperative and oyster producers in Okucho, who provided us with a wealth of knowledge, expertise and appreciation for their commitment to sustainability.”

Photo courtesy of Maruto Suisan Co. Ltd. 


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