New FIP to improve giant octopus fishery in northern Japan

Published on
May 6, 2019

After two years of conversation, site visits, and scientific work, Japan’s third fishery improvement project (FIP) – the Tomamae Giant Pacific Octopus FIP – is now officially underway. The previous two FIPs were the Nachi Katsuura Albacore Longline FIP and the Tokyo Bay Sea Perch FIP.

An FIP is a stepwise approach toward Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. It involves an analysis against the MSC Fisheries Standard, typically using an MSC pre-assessment. An action plan is then developed and implemented, with progress tracked using a benchmarking tool. The process may carry through to a full MSC assessment. 

The project, a joint initiative between Ocean Outcomes, Seafood Legacy Co., Ltd., fishermen from the Tomamae fishery coop of Kita-Rumoi Fisheries Cooperative, and the Wakkanai Fisheries Research Institute, will work through a four-year workplan to revitalize the Tomamae North Pacific Giant Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) fishery in Hokkaido by transitioning the fishery and its management to science-based best practices.

In Tomamae-cho, Hokkaido, about 10 percent of the population of 3,200 is employed in the fishing industry. As with the trends for Japan as a whole, the fishing industry in Tomamae is in decline, experiencing a reduction in catch, an aging of the workforce, and a lack of new interest in the industry. The Tomamae Giant Pacific Octopus FIP aims to revitalize the region’s fisheries by improving sustainability of fishing practices through the establishment of a science-based management plan for the octopus fishery, which is managed by the Kita-Rumoi Fisheries Cooperative. In addition to the environmental work, the group of drift barrel fishermen involved in the FIP want to use the project as a vehicle to generate further interest and investment in the region’s fisheries, according to a press release.

“Ensuring well-managed and sustainable fisheries through fishery improvement projects such as this contributes directly to the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations and to the well-being of local fishing communities in Hokkaido,” said Shunji Murakami, who is leading the project for Seafood Legacy.

The Barrel Flowing Fishery Group at Tomamae fishery coop, which is a branch of Kita-Rumoi Fisheries Cooperative, and scientists from the Wakkanai Fisheries Research Institute, are working with Ocean Outcomes and Seafood Legacy to conduct stock assessments and establish a precautionary harvest strategy. 

“The giant octopus fishery is a major fishery, so its viability is key to economic development of the region,” Wakkanai Fisheries Research Institute Researcher Noboru Hoshino said. “We’re enthusiastic to support the technical and analytical science behind this project as we collectively work towards revitalizing the region’s fisheries.”

Barrel flowing fishing (tarunagashi in Japanese) can also be translated as “drift barrel.” In this method, the gear configuration consists of a baited lure suspended below an inverted plastic basket. The fishery uses the tidal flow to allow the bait to drag just above the seabed. The octopus will attach themselves to the bait and the fishermen can see from the movement of the basket at the surface whether there is an octopus attached to the bait. When an octopus is holding on to the bait, the fishermen return to the line and haul it in. 

Ocean Outcomes (O2) is an international organization that works with local communities, fisheries, and the seafood industry to improve the environmental, social and economic sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture operations.

Seafood Legacy is a Tokyo-based social venture established in 2015 specializing in sustainable seafood and fisheries. Seafood Legacy provides sustainable seafood consulting services to marine-related businesses, producers and NGOs to strengthen the connections of marine ecosystems, economies and local communities.

Photo courtesy of Seafood Legacy Co., Ltd.

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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