Hokkaido bluefin quota cuts lawsuit thrown out

Published on
December 1, 2020

A lawsuit filed by fishermen in the north Hokkaido city of Rumoi three years ago against Japan’s national government for the continued withholding of bluefin quota – a measure to make up for overfishing in 2017 – was dismissed by the Sapporo District Court on 27 November.

The claimants said the government did not take sufficient measures to make sure fishermen in the prefecture obeyed new quota rules, according to a report by broadcasting company NHK. The court, however, said that measures and their implementation are left to the broad discretion of the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries.

Hokkaido exceeded its prefectural quota for Pacific bluefin tuna for both adults and juveniles (under 30 kilograms) by about seven times in 2017. The quota in that year for juveniles was 111.81 metric tons (MT), but set nets had huge bycatch, resulting in a juvenile catch of 783 MT. The set nets, placed by ships from Hakodate, target salmon and squid, but unexpectedly took many tuna. As a practical matter, it is difficult to allow only tuna to escape without also releasing other fish.

In order to be fair to other prefectures that did not exceed their limits, the overage was subtracted from Hokkaido’s future quota allocations in yearly installments. As a result, the next year’s quota was zero, except for an amount allocated to cover bycatch from fishing targeting other species totaling just 8.3 MT. Also from 2018, penalties began to be imposed on fishermen for exceeding the quotas. The subtractions are expected to end in three years.

This year’s quota is significantly higher.

“Since July 2018, we have been restricting the catch of bluefin tuna based on the TAC Law. The amount managed by the governor of Hokkaido during the sixth management period is 102.7 metric tons (MT) for small fish (less than 30 kilograms) and 308.5 tons large fish (30 kilograms or more),” according to a statement from the Hokkaido Prefectural government.

Currently, Hokkaido and Ishikawa prefectures are also restricting sport fishing for all bluefin. Hyogo and Kagoshima restrict fishing for juveniles and adults, respectively. Yamagata and Nigata prefectures request voluntary restraint.

Photo courtesy of the Japanese government

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500