Business

In bid to stamp out poaching of sea cucumbers, Japan to create unique catch certificate system

JIJI

The Fisheries Agency plans to create a catch certificate system for domestically caught sea cucumbers, informed sources have said.

Exports of illegally caught sea cucumbers are rampant due to high prices, with some groups making large sums of money from the sea animals, the sources said Thursday. Domestically produced sea cucumbers, mainly produced in Hokkaido and Aomori Prefecture, are popular abroad.

Under the new system, customs offices will request certificates of origin issued by prefectural fishermen’s cooperative associations to prevent illegal exporting.

The agency plans to introduce the system as early as 2020, the sources said.

Catch certificate systems based on international rules have been introduced for bluefin tuna and other fish, but this will be the first system of its kind created domestically.

Total exports of sea cucumbers were valued at some ¥21 billion in 2017, the third-most after scallops and mackerel.

Sea cucumbers are often traded directly between fishermen and processors, with no middleman involved.

With the new system, the agency hopes to secure profits for fishermen by eliminating illegal hunting.

Most of Japan’s sea cucumbers are exported to Hong Kong and China after being dried. Dried specimens for export currently sell for around ¥28,000 per kilogram, chiefly thanks to demand in China.

Sea cucumber is generally served pickled in Japan.

In Chinese restaurants abroad it is considered to be one of the more expensive dishes on the menu.

Under current Japanese law, police need to catch sea cucumber poachers red-handed.

Due to a manpower shortage faced by the nation’s police force, together with the increasing sophistication of illegal hunting, it is difficult for police to arrest poachers.

In 2015, they detected an illegal hunting operation in Aomori Prefecture, and the value of the sea cucumbers involved was put at some ¥190 million.