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Japan Fisheries Agency to set legal tuna catch limit, overfishing penalties

The Japan Fisheries Agency (JFA) will set a limit on Pacific bluefin tuna catches as early as fiscal 2017 and impose penalties for overfishing in a bid to better manage stocks of the endangered but highly popular fish, sources close to the agency said.

    A voluntary annual cap on bluefin tuna catches was introduced in July 2016 on a trial basis. However, the results of a bluefin tuna resource control survey, which the agency released on Feb. 3, showed that some fishermen violated the limit in eight prefectures, including Shizuoka and Kumamoto, in addition to Mie and Nagasaki prefectures where similar cases had been confirmed earlier.

    In Shizuoka Prefecture, four fishermen allegedly caught a total of 1.5 metric tons of bluefin tuna without permission. The survey also revealed that Kumamoto-based fishermen failed to report that they had caught 4.2 tons in other prefectures.

    Countries concerned conduct resource controls on Pacific bluefin tuna in accordance with an international agreement. The overfishing revealed in the JFA survey is highly unlikely to immediately constitute a violation of the upper limit on the domestic fishing quota set under that agreement.

    Still, Japan could be accused of lax resource management if the country failed to address the matter. Therefore, the agency has decided to make bluefin tuna catches subject to the total allowable catch system under the Act on Preservation and Control of Living Marine Resources.

    Under the system, those who continue to fish in excess of the upper limit could be punished with imprisonment or a fine.

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