The Fisheries Agency plans to raise the maximum fine for illegal fishing of baby Japanese eels, or glass eels, from ¥100,000 to ¥30 million starting in 2023, in a bid to stem a source of funding of organized crime syndicates, agency sources said Wednesday.

The maximum period of imprisonment for glass eel poaching will also be increased from six months to three years, the sources said. Japanese eels have been designated as an endangered species.

Glass eel prices this fishing season are high at just below ¥2.2 million per kilogram, reflecting record poor catches over several seasons. The fisheries industry has been calling for stricter penalties as the current low fines do little to dissuade poachers.

Japanese eels are generally raised by catching glass eels at the mouths of rivers and raising them in ponds.

The recorded amount of glass eels caught this season is 2.2 tons, according to reports submitted to prefectures where glass eels are caught.

However, the amount transferred to ponds was recorded at 3.7 tons, creating a discrepancy of some 1.5 tons. The difference is attributable to unauthorized fishing of glass eels as well as fishermen underreporting catches, according to the sources.

The strengthened penalties will be implemented in a ministerial ordinance under the revised fishery act, which will take effect next year. Maximum fines for illegal fishing of other delicacies, such as abalone and sea cucumbers, will also be raised to ¥30 million, the sources said.

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