Business / Economy

First saury catch limit in North Pacific set by eight economies; quotas pending

Kyodo

Japan, China and six other economies of the North Pacific Fisheries Commission agreed for the first time Thursday to set annual catch quotas for saury, aimed at addressing fishery resource depletion.

The saury catch limit proposed by Tokyo was set at 556,250 tons for 2020 among the eight participating economies, after two previous attempts to introduce the measure had failed to win support.

During the three-day gathering in Tokyo that ran through Thursday, Japan had initially proposed an annual cap of around 450,000 tons. But a concession was apparently made in order to strike the deal, which had previously been blocked by opposition from China and other countries.

The 2020 catch limit exceeds the total of some 440,000 tons caught by the eight members in 2018, but Japan stressed the significance of reaching the deal in terms of international efforts to better control fishery resources.

Takashi Koya, director-general of the Fisheries Agency’s Resources Management Department, said that although “there are some unsatisfactory elements” in the deal, Japan agreed to it “as a passing point to improve” fishery resource management.

While the commission’s eight participants — Canada, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States and Vanuatu — have sealed the deal on the overall catch quotas for saury, they have not worked out quotas for each individual member.

Within the 556,250-ton catch limit, a limit of 330,000 tons will apply to catches on the high seas while a limit of 226,250 tons is set for exclusive economic zones. Specific limits for each member will be discussed at an annual meeting next year. For the 2020 fishing season, the eight economies will try not to exceed their 2018 catches in the high seas that totaled 350,000 tons.

Japan’s annual catch was 128,531 tons last year. In the past it had exceeded 200,000 tons but has dropped to around 100,000 tons since 2015.

The fishery industry in Japan welcomed the agreement, which could stop overfishing. Tokyo has been exploring ways to maintain parity amid growing saury fishing in the high seas by China and Taiwan.

“It represents very significant progress that a framework for catch limits has been established,” said Kohei Oishi, managing director of a Tokyo-based cooperative on saury fishing. “Japan’s industry would like to abide by the rule so that resources recover.”

Takayoshi Chiba, the 70-year-old head of a fish market-operating company in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, also welcomed the introduction of catch quota, saying, “If each country and region fished in unregulated manner, there’d be no end to it.”

“I hope Japan will be able to secure a quota in the future that enables it to maintain a certain amount of distribution, so customers will not go away” due to high prices, Chiba said. Ofunato is a major saury fishing community in Japan.

When Japan first proposed the introduction of overall catch quotas as well as caps for each member in 2017, countries such as China and South Korea voiced opposition.

The international meeting was also divided last year, with Tokyo’s attempt to introduce a framework for catch limits for each member, without setting numerical goals, also failing due to opposition from China and Vanuatu.