National / Politics

Japan fails to win approval to increase tuna catch quotas

JIJI

Japan failed to win approval at an international fisheries meeting for its proposals to increase overall catch quotas for Pacific bluefin tuna.

The proposals were supported by Taiwan and South Korea but opposed by the United States and the Cook Islands. States in opposition said that it’s too early to expand quotas as the numbers of such tuna are still extremely small.

The proposals called for a 15 percent increase each in catch quotas for small tuna weighing less than 30 kilograms and for larger tuna.

They were put forward at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s Northern Committee, where any proposal requires unanimous approval.

“It is extremely disappointing that the quota increase wasn’t accepted, despite resources recovering,” Shingo Ota, councillor at the Fisheries Agency, told a news conference after the end of the committee’s four-day meeting in Fukuoka on Friday.

A fisheries cooperative official in Miyazaki Prefecture voiced disappointment, describing the outcome of the meeting as “the worst.”

“While I didn’t hold expectations for larger quotas, we continue to face a difficult situation,” said an official involved in coastal fishery operations in Chiba Prefecture.

Another Japanese proposal, which would allow part of unused quotas to be carried over to the following year, was also rejected.

Other committee members apparently viewed the Japanese proposal for larger quotas as self-serving, people familiar with the situation said.

The proposal partly reflected Tokyo’s consideration for domestic small-scale fishermen, who blame the depleted tuna stocks on overfishing by larger rivals, the sources said.

Referring to the U.S. opposition to the proposal, a Fisheries Agency official said the United States apparently thinks that the number of larger tuna will rise naturally if the current quotas are maintained for a few years. U.S. fishermen mainly target larger tuna.

The volume of adult bluefin tuna stocks plunged to around 12,000 tons in 2010 due to factors including overfishing, after peaking at some 170,000 tons in 1961.

The figure recovered to about 21,000 tons in 2016 after fishing regulations were fully introduced in 2015.

The commission has set up a provisional target of boosting the stocks to approximately 43,000 tons by 2024.