Japan’s Fisheries Agency allocates additional juvenile bluefin quota

Published on
May 8, 2017

On 1 May, Japan’s Fisheries Agency allocated additional catch quota for juvenile Pacific bluefin tuna to some prefectures that had exceeded their catch limit. 

Nagasaki Prefecture received additional quota of 56 metric tons, or 9 percent of its initial 632 metric-ton (MT) allocation. Nagasaki’s allocation is the largest in the nation. In northern part of the Sea of Japan, prefectures that have not yet reached their allocated portion of the overall quota will be allowed to catch up to their initial allocation.

The additional allocation is for the current quota year, which lasts until June. The additional amounts are to be deducted from the next quota term, which starts in July. 

The limit on juvenile bluefin, defined as those under 30 kilograms, was initially announced in August of 2014. It was designed to halve the yearly juvenile catch of 2015, as compared to the average catch in the 2002-2004 seasons, used as a statistical baseline.

The amount set was 4,007 MT – 2,000 MT for purse-seine fishing by large and medium fishing boats and the other 2,007 MT for coastal fishing using fixed nets. However, by 1 May, 4,008 MT had already been landed.

So that fishing for mature bluefin is not prevented by the excessive juvenile bycatch, Japanese researchers are recommending the adoption of fixed nets that allow escapement of juveniles. Such nets would have escapement grids that allow smaller fish to exit while keeping larger fish in. 

The method has also been the subject of U.S. research, such as by the California Sea Grant Extension Program, which investigated the optimal size, shape and color of the grids. A new finding of the Japanese research is that different species school at different depths. Bluefin tend to gather closer to the surface than other species that do not have similar bycatch restrictions. Therefore, by placing the escapement “hole” nearer the surface, juvenile bluefin may exit, while smaller individuals of other species may remain in the net.

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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