Japan’s fisheries budget reflects COVID, other challenges

Japanese fishermen processing their catch on the shore.

The FY 2022 budget released by Japan’s Fisheries Agency highlights the challenges the country’s seafood sector is facing amid COVID-19.

The new budget features significant increases intended to help fishery management stability and promote new resource management system, adds additional funds to stabilize fishery incomes, and adds subsidies for fuel.

The budget for implementing fishery management stability measures and promoting a new resource management system was more than doubled to JPY 68.1 billion (USD 531 million, EUR 495 million). Since January 2020, domestic prices and exports on main fishery products such as scallops, yellowtail and bream have fallen due to COVID-19 and resulting restrictions on eating out. Plus, operators face a shortage of foreign workers due to entry bans, impacting both fishermen and processors. In response, the government is providing financial support by covering the interest payments and cost of loan guarantees on loans for fishing operations or for existing debts.

Fishermen will see income stabilization efforts from the new budget. The country’s income stabilization fund, which is used to compensate for the decrease in income of fishers, will be increased three-fold to JPY 59.2 billion (USD 462 million, EUR 430 million). The budget also includes support for the temporary storage of an excess supply of fisheries products caused by reduced demand, and for the promotion of sales to new sales channels.

Additional help to fishers and aquaculture companies is coming in the form of subsidies for fuel and compound feed, both of which have shot up in price. The budget for subsidies has a five-fold increase to JPY 8.9 billion (USD 69 million, EUR 64 million). The Japanese government implements “safety net” subsidy programs when the prices for those goods rise more than a certain amount.

Money to expand resource evaluations by government survey vessels or by contracting through vessel owners, and to expand the number of fishing ports implementing computerized landing data, was decreased to JPY 1.3 billion (USD 10.1 million, EUR 9.4 million). Delays caused by COVID-19 reduced the amount of evaluations and implementations.

The expanded surveys and better real-time record keeping are necessary as part of Japan’s switch from managing most species by a total allowable effort (TAE) system – in which the number, size, and period of operation of fishing boats, and the types of gear allowed, are regulated – to a total allowable catch (TAC) system with vessel quotas for most species, as required by Japan’s Fisheries Reform Act, passed at the end of 2018.

The budget to foster human resources also shrank to JPY 100 million (USD 0.7 million, EUR 0.72 million). The average age of fishermen is high and there is a lack of successors to carry on many businesses. There is also a lack of managerial ability in fishery cooperatives, which play a large role in managing the coastal fishery in each local fishing village. In response, the government grants funds to young people before employment, during long-term training at fishing sites, and supports improvement of the management ability of fishermen.

Conversely, the budget for strengthening the competitiveness of coastal fisheries, and for grants for revitalizing beach vitality and promoting growth, was nearly doubled to JPY 4.5 billion (USD 35 million, EUR 33 million). This includes money allocated for constructing shared facilities to increase the income of fishers, for renewable energy facilities, and for anti-poaching measures.

Additional aid in the form of funds for a vessel leasing system, designed to help new entrants who may not have the funds to buy outright, were increased ten-fold, to JPY 25.6 billion (USD 200 million, EUR 186 million). Additionally funding for reforms of the pelagic and offshore fishery was tripled, to JPY 6.5 billion (USD 50 million, EUR 47 million). In order to make the fishing industry more profitable while reducing CO2 emissions, the agency will introduce high-performance fishing vessels and demonstrate new operation and production systems.

The budget for researching aquaculture feed, seedlings and fishing grounds was unchanged at JPY 300 million (USD 2.3 million, EUR 2.2 million), which seems to be a baseline budget figure for most ongoing research activities.

A demonstration project of a large-scale offshore aquaculture system utilizing information and communications technology (ICT) had its budget increased from JPY 2 billion (USD 15.6 million, EUR 14.4 million) to JPY 6.5 billion (USD 50.7 million, EUR 47.2 million).  The project intends to demonstrate new tech like an automatic feeder, and a cloud system for aquaculture data management, and is also a demonstration of market-in type aquaculture –matching production to market needs rather than vice-versa.

For inland water surface and measures for salmon and other resources, the budget was unchanged at JPY 1.4 billion (USD 10.9 million, EUR 10.2 million). The funds will support examination of sustainable management of salmon, the establishment of an appropriate management system for inland water resources such as eels, and conversion to a water discharge system necessary for improving the salmon return rate.

For improving the management and business of fishery cooperatives, the baseline figure was doubled to JPY 600 million (USD 4.6 million, EUR 4.3 million). The money will be used to strengthen the management base and help to procure new funds. The number of cooperative members in Japan has been decreasing, and many have been merged, but there are still many micro-cooperatives. There is a need to strengthen the cooperatives' business and management foundation through further mergers and to further reinforce their sales business.

For establishing a competitive processing and distribution structure, and stimulating demand for marine products, the budget was more than tripled to JPY 2 billion (USD 15.6 million, EUR 14.4 million). The money will be used to improve the productivity of the fishery value chain by coordinating production, processing, distribution, and sales. It will also support the utilization of advanced production technologies.

Additionally it will support storage and transportation fees for stagnant inventory, and support efforts to develop new products based on modern lifestyles and to expand consumption of marine products such by providing information. There is a growing trend of simplification and externalization of diet among consumers in recent years, so that the importance of processing has increased in the consumption of fishery products.

The budget for fishery infrastructure development projects was cut by about a third to JPY 27 billion (USD 210 million, EUR 196 million). The money will go toward introducing larger fishing vessels at base ports and improving the distribution functions of fishing ports, as well as to prevention and mitigation of, and resilience against, disasters. Another JPY 100 million (USD 700,000, EUR 720,000) will go to facilities that contribute to the greening of fishing ports.

The government has budgeted JPY 78.8 billion (USD 612 million, EUR 572 million) for development grants to agriculture, forestry, and fishing villages for infrastructure and disaster mitigation. Measures to raise and strengthen coastal levees and disaster recovery projects will cost JPY 4.4 billion (USD 34 million, EUR 32 million), over three times the initial figure. The increase is due to the cost of dealing with floating pumice stones from a Pacific Ocean volcano.

To counter the incursion of foreign fishing vessels into the Japanese exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as well as to combat red tides and support tidal flat conservation, was given a budget of JPY 5 billion (USD 38.2 million, EUR 35.6 million) about a third of the initial figure.

Support for whaling has been budgeted JPY 5.1 billion (USD 40 million, EUR 37 million), to fund a demonstration project and to gather scientific data.

Many of the priorities in the budget are explained in more detail in the Fisheries Agency White Paper.  

Photo courtesy of Dane Gillet/Shutterstock


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