Japan urged to cut farm-fed tuna imports

An intergovernmental fishery organization seeking to conserve Atlantic tuna has urged Japan to take measures to curb the country’s increasing imports of farm-fed tuna due to environmental concerns, sources said Wednesday.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, of which Japan is a member, sent a letter to Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi stating that Japanese companies are ignoring the need to manage international resources in their support of the expansion of farm-fed tuna, the sources said.

Under the practice, young tuna caught at sea are placed in farms, where they are raised for a few months on fatty feed before being shipped to market. Such tuna are popular in Japan because they are fatty and relatively cheap.

The government has begun considering measures such as only allowing imports from farms where appropriate resource management has been confirmed, the sources said.

An ICCAT official said wild tuna sent to the farms instead of the market are often not reported in the official catch amount, making it difficult to determine exactly how many young tuna are being harvested.

Concerns also exist about overfishing for the purpose of raising tuna at the farms.

In the letter, the ICCAT also asked Tokyo to make efforts to ensure that Japanese companies do not promote these tuna-fishing activities by countries that are not members of the commission, according to the sources.

This is because nonmember countries, including Israel and Egypt, which do not fall under ICCAT resource management restrictions, have expressed interest in raising tuna, they said.