Japan joined the talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade arrangement on Tuesday by attending a meeting in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Japan is the 12th country to join the talks.

Along with agriculture, fisheries is expected to be greatly affected if Japan takes part in the TPP. Japan needs to make adequate preparations so that its fishing industry will survive and prosper under a new environment in which export of fisheries products will become important. Particularly important will be increasing the number of fishery product processing facilities whose hygienic standards will meet the standards imposed by countries importing such products from Japan.

Thirty years ago, Japan was the No. 1 fishing country with the total catch reaching 11.1 million tons, including fish raised through fish farming. But in 2011, it tumbled to the No. 8 position with the total catch falling to 4.77 million tons, or less than a half of the amount 30 years ago. Japan is now surpassed by such countries as Vietnam and the Philippines. The downtrend in the fish catch is clear, even taking into consideration the effects of the March 11, 2011, disasters that hit the coastal areas of the Tohoku region. In 2010, Japan’s total fish catch was 5.31 million tons.

Japan needs to take concrete measures including fishing quotas to prevent indiscriminate catching of fish, a step necessary to make Japan’s fisheries sustainable, and to provide incentives for attracting young people to the fishing industry.

For the past two decades, China has been the No. 1 fishing country, with its total catch amounting to 66.22 million tons. Noteworthy is the fact that products from fish farming make up 50.17 million tons of China’s total catch.

Of the global total fish catch of 178.33 million tons, 83.73 million tons are from fish culturing. In Japan’s case, catch from fish farming is 910,000 tons, only about 20 percent of the total catch.

Japan should make serious efforts to increase the export of fisheries products derived from fish farming, for which Japanese fishermen have good skills. The efforts are all the more important because the TPP will abolish tariffs and competition with other countries’ fishing industry will become intense.

There is a problem. It is reported that the United States, which will be a leading member of the TPP, has a plan to make the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) food safety approach the standard for fisheries products to be exported inside the TPP zone. Because the U.S. requires every fishery product processing facility to control the safety of its products in accordance with HACCP, it’s possible that Japan at first won’t be able to export its fisheries products to the U.S.

According to the Fisheries Agency, only about 250 fishery product processing facilities in Japan are recognized as having met the HACCP requirements. Whether Japan participates in the TPP or not, the government must take every supportive measure to help as many of these facilities as possible meet the HACCP requirements.

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