Pacific economies begin talks in Tokyo on regional saury fishing


Japan and seven other Pacific economies started discussions in Tokyo on Tuesday on saury fishing regulations in the northern Pacific.

During the annual meeting of the North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC), which runs through Thursday, Japan hopes to get all eight member economies to agree to cap overall Pacific saury catches.

“We sincerely hope that appropriate saury resources management measures will be introduced early for sustainable utilization of saury resources,” said Masaki Hoshina, deputy director-general of Japan’s Fisheries Agency.

The proposal by Japan, which has been experiencing poor saury catches, is aimed at preventing overfishing and improving saury resources management. The fish is a popular autumn dish in the nation.

It remains uncertain, however, whether China, which has rapidly increased its saury catch, will support the proposal.

Taiwan, South Korea, Russia, Vanuatu, the United States and Canada are also members of the NPFC, which was established in 2015.

At a meeting of the NPFC Scientific Committee in April this year, all eight members agreed for the first time that saury stocks in the northern Pacific were at low levels.

Based on that recognition, Japan believes it appropriate to set the ceiling on total saury catches in the northern Pacific for sustainable saury stocks at around 450,000 tons, roughly the same as the actual catches in 2018, Fisheries Agency officials said.

Japan hopes that the overall figure will be divided among the member economies based on their exclusive economic zones as well as elsewhere in the Pacific Ocean, the officials also said.

At last year’s annual meeting, Japan proposed setting a catch quota for each NPFC member. But the talks broke down due to opposition from China.

This time, Japan will place priority on consensus-building and propose an overall cap, deemed more palatable to other members, the officials said.

While the focus is again on China, Japan is also watching closely whether South Korea, which backed its proposal last year, will do so again this year amid a bilateral row over Japan’s tightened controls on semiconductor materials exports to South Korea.

Japan’s annual saury catches have remained at around 100,000 tons from 2015, down sharply from the 1958 peak of around 575,000 tons, according to the agency.

The decline reflects huge amounts of high-sea fishing by China and Taiwan before the fish migrate to Japan’s EEZ in summer and autumn, as well as a rise in ocean temperatures due to global warming, the officials said.