The government plans to propose reducing saury catch quotas at an international meeting later this month, in order to protect resources, due to steep falls in saury hauls.
China and Taiwan, which have opposed stricter restrictions, may agree to quota cuts after experiencing poor hauls last year.
In the meeting of the North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC), slated for Feb. 23-25, attention will be focused on whether negotiators can agree on workable cuts in saury catch quotas.
According to the Fisheries Agency, Japan’s saury catches have been on a steady decline since peaking at about 580,000 tons in 1958.
A survey by a national saury fishermen’s cooperative noted that catches in 2020 plunged 27% from the previous year to a record low of 29,566 tons.
Experts attribute the sharp drop to a rise in seawater temperatures and active fishing by China and Taiwan in the high seas before saury reach Japan’s coastal waters.
The NPFC has eight members, also including South Korea and Russia. Members of the commission’s scientific committee agreed in January that saury resources are deteriorating.
For that reason, a Japanese official involved in negotiations at the body believes participants in the coming meeting are likely to discuss reducing catch quotas, and described the possibility of quotas remaining unchanged as unthinkable.
At the previous conference in 2019, the member economies agreed to set catch quotas for the first time. The catch limit for 2020 was set at 550,000 tons, comprising 330,000 tons in the high seas and 220,000 tons in the coastal waters of Japan and Russia.
Japan is aiming for cuts to 2021 catch quotas for both groups of waters, but the member economies may have difficulty agreeing on specific sizes of reduction.
Japan is also calling for member-specific catch quotas to be set, but that issue is likely to be carried over to future meetings.
With the coming meeting to be held online due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, participants will be unable to discuss complicated issues that affect the interests of member economies, a Japanese official said.
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