The Fisheries Agency has set area-based ceilings on Japan’s catch of juvenile bluefin tuna to help restore the dwindling adult tuna stock in the Pacific Ocean.
The agency briefed a national meeting of fishermen in Tokyo on the measures Tuesday and obtained their broad consent on the measures, which are the first ceilings of their kind and are designed to halve the yearly catch in 2015, compared to the average catch in the 2002-2004 seasons.
Of the 4,007 tons that will be allowed, 2,000 tons account for purse seine fishing by large and medium fishing boats. The other 2,007 tons will be for coastal fishing mainly by fixed nets.
Based on past tuna catches by area and targeting coastal fishing, the ceilings include 785 tons for the western part of Kyushu, 410 tons for the northern Sea of Japan, 285 tons for the northern Pacific, 245 tons for the southern Pacific, 105 tons for the western Sea of Japan and 50 tons for the Seto Inland Sea.
In 2012, Japan’s total catch of immature bluefin tuna came to 3,815 tons, below the limit of 4,007 tons set for 2015 and beyond.
Still, the Fisheries Agency believes that the new system is necessary to warn against overfishing in seasons when large numbers of immature bluefin tuna migrate, according to the officials.
Warnings and alerts will be issued to relevant fishery organizations through email or phone calls as soon as the agency determines that catch totals are approaching the ceilings, officials said.
The agency also plans to post such warnings and alerts on its website to raise awareness among consumers about the importance of appropriate management of tuna, which is indispensable for sushi and other Japanese cuisine.
The new warning system covers fishing of immature tuna weighing less than 30 kg around Japan by fixed nets, towed nets and other methods. The warning system will not cover purse seine fishing because tighter controls are already in place for that method.
The agency will issue a warning when cumulative bluefin tuna catches in a year reach 70 percent of the limit for the year. An alert will be issued when the catches reach 80 percent and a special alert for 90 percent.
When the amount reaches 95 percent, the agency will ask fishermen, via prefectural governments, to suspend catches.