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Japanese fish industries are starting to use artificial intelligence to select high-quality fish at markets and find good fishing grounds, areas where they have traditionally relied largely on experience and intuition.

AI tools are drawing attention because they can easily replicate proficient skills, including those needed to evaluate tuna quality and determine good spots to catch saury.

When judging the quality of fish, buyers look at how fresh and firm the meat is and how much fat it puts on.

“You need over 10 years of experience” to acquire an excellent eye, a fish market worker said.

Advertising giant Dentsu Inc. and others jointly developed and put into practical use a smartphone app that enables users to easily pick out delicious tuna.

According to Dentsu, the AI tool, fed with data on how tail sections of frozen tuna were graded by skilled merchants, instantly judges the quality of tuna.

The app grades quality in three to five stages as soon as users hold their smartphones over a fish and is becoming popular in the seafood-processing industry.

The app is currently used to discern the quality of yellowfin tuna.

A conveyor belt sushi chain has started to serve tuna chosen by the app at its outlets, with staff members also praising the app.

Buyers inspect frozen tuna prior to the first auction of the year at Toyosu Market in Tokyo on Jan. 5. | BLOOMBERG
Buyers inspect frozen tuna prior to the first auction of the year at Toyosu Market in Tokyo on Jan. 5. | BLOOMBERG

“We hope to expand the use of the app to Toyosu and other fish markets by making improvements so that it can be used on bluefin and bigeye tuna,” a Dentsu official said.

Meanwhile, the Japan Fisheries Information Service Center succeeded in creating a system that sends fishers sea charts showing AI-selected locations of possible areas to catch saury, which are becoming increasingly difficult to catch.

This new function has been added to the center’s online service that distributes information on water temperatures and other data.

The selection is made using data on sea temperatures collected over the past 15 years and information on saury catches gathered from fishers.

The AI judgments are also “based on the characteristics (of saury fishing grounds), fish stock conditions and seasonal changes in fishing-ground locations that vary every year,” an official at the center said.

Up until now, saury fishers relied primarily on data on water temperatures and their experience, the official said. This is because their fish detectors cover only areas around their boats.

Charts showing AI-selected locations “are useful” as they cover wider areas, a fishing industry official said.

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