Japan’s annual fishing quota for southern bluefin tuna will be halved to 3,000 tons for five years starting in 2007, from 6,065 tons in 2006, the Fisheries Agency said Monday.
Japan accepted the cut after admitting overfishing during a four-day meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna that ended Friday in the city of Miyazaki, the agency said.
The bluefin and southern bluefin tuna are particularly popular in Japan for their “toro,” or tuna belly meat, but stocks of both fish have been falling rapidly due to overfishing.
Most southern bluefin caught around the world is sold in Japan, which imports roughly 10,000 tons annually. It is used mostly for sushi and sashimi.
Representatives from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and the European Commission attended the meeting and decided on the new quotas.
Of those in attendance, Japan, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand are members of the body.
According to the agency, the participants agreed to cut their combined catch of southern bluefin tuna by some 20 percent to 11,530 tons for 2007, down from 14,030 tons for 2006, out of concern over declining stocks.
Australia will maintain its quota of 5,265 tons, while South Korea and Taiwan will each see their quotas fall 12 percent to 1,000 tons.
The new quotas will be effective for five years for Japan and three years for the other countries.
The meeting in Miyazaki is the first time the Canberra-based commission has agreed to reduce quotas since its inception in 1994.
The WWF, an international conservation group, welcomed Japan’s acceptance of the sharp cut in its quota but said the agreement was insufficient to rebuild southern bluefin tuna stocks because Australia’s quota was left unchanged.
“Considering the fact that almost all of Australia’s catch is exported to Japan, Japanese consumers need to seriously think about the issue of how to manage tuna stocks,” said the WWF’s Arata Izawa.
At present, the Japanese and Australian quotas account for 80 percent of the total catch, and the two countries have criticized each other for exceeding their allowable catch.
Japan was the only member slapped with a substantial quota reduction for so long a period. The measure was partly intended to punish Japan for its overfishing, which came to light earlier this year and drew flak from many countries, participants said.
During the meeting, the Japanese delegation admitted the nation exceeded its 6,065-ton quota of southern bluefin in 2005 by some 1,800 tons.
There are five international bodies that oversee tuna stocks.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas is to discuss cuts in fishing quotas for bluefin tuna at its annual meeting in November.
The moves by the conservation bodies are expected to push tuna prices higher at a time when demand is rising in countries other than Japan.
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