Japan may exceed limits on juvenile Pacific bluefin for second straight year

Published on
December 1, 2017

An unexpectedly large number of bluefin tuna were caught off Hokkaido in salmon set nets starting from October. As a result, Japan will likely exceed its international agreed catch quota on juveniles, defined as under 30 kilograms.

The bycatch in Hokkaido set nets has reached 600 metric tons (MT), exceeding the bycatch limit of 580 MT for the whole nation for set nets through next June. The total for all fishing methods (including hook and line) may also soon be exceeded.

With so many juveniles hitting the market, prices for small bluefin declined to JPY 400 to 600 (USD 3.59 to 5.38, EUR 3.02 to 4.54) per kilogram, down from the usual price for the same period of JPY 900 to 1,200 (USD 8.08 to 10.77, EUR 6.80 to 9.07).

There is no exemption from quota limits for bycatch under the Pacific bluefin tuna catch regulations set by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). When Japan exceeded its limit in the July 2016-June 2017 period, the amount was subtracted from this year’s quota. But this target will also likely be missed.

Japan’s currently regulates bycatch for the fixed net fishery with a nationwide limit, but since it is unfair that other prefectures will have to curtail fishing due to Hokkaido fishermen taking too many bluefin, the system will likely be changed to a prefectural basis.

Besides Hokkaido, Aomori Prefecture has also been catching too many juveniles. On 2 August, the prefecture asked longline fishery cooperatives to release any live juveniles, as the number had reached 90 percent of the limit on juveniles. 

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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