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More and more restaurants are dropping Japanese “gin mutsu” bluefish from their menus as environmentally certified fishing and seafood products become popular in Japan.

The London-based Marine Stewardship Council is trying to universally certify seafood from resources that are not threatened by overfishing.

The World Wildlife Fund began approaching Japanese fishery cooperatives and distributors this year to sell MSC-certified seafood. Industry sources have said the sale of such marine products might begin before the end of the year.

Bluefish is popular on the Japanese table, but illegal catches are said to be rampant in defiance of international fishery controls.

Most of the fish imported by major consuming nations such as Japan and the United States are taken unlawfully, according to experts.

U.S. environmental groups started a drive a few years ago to call on restaurants and well-known chefs to not handle gin mutsu bluefish.

Industry sources said the number of restaurants removing it from their menus has since grown.

Some people have started a campaign to raise public awareness among Japanese about overfishing, using red, yellow and green cards for distribution to consumers in accordance with the significance of the problem. They are also distributing information on the issue via the Internet.

A red card means “let’s avoid ordering this seafood,” and applies to gin mutsu bluefish, caviar and bluefin tuna that are seen as suffering major problems in terms of the lack of sufficient environmentally friendly fishing practices and resource control.

Yellow means “caution required” and green signifies seafood recommended for consumption because of “the relatively small problem” they cause on the environmental front.

The MSC was inaugurated in 1999 to differentiate fish products through labels related to environmentally friendly fishing methods, not unlike organic farm products.

MSC specialists examine whether fishermen are paying attention to the environment and resource conservation and authorize them to place “certified” labels on their fish if they meet standards.

So far, 10 types of fishing practices involving about 200 different kinds of seafood have been certified by the MSC, including lobster caught in Australia, which maintains strict control of marine resources, and Alaskan salmon.

Jim Humphreys of the U.S. MSC office said interest in the MSC has been growing every year and the number of fishing practices and fish products getting certifications is rising.

Arata Izawa of the WWF Japan committee, which is promoting MSC-certified seafood in Japan, said that if MSC-certified seafood appears in stores, consumers would understand at a glance that attention had been paid to the environment when it was caught.

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