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Japan to propose raising fishing quotas for Pacific bluefin tuna

Bluefin tuna are unloaded from a boat at a port in Sakaiminato, Tottori Prefecture, on June 4, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The Japanese government is set to propose increasing fishing quotas for Pacific bluefin tuna to an international organization addressing the control of resources this coming September on the grounds that tuna stocks have been on a recovery track, it has been learned.

The move comes in response to a recent estimate by the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean (ISC) to the effect that a provisional target for stock recovery can be achieved with a high probability even if countries raised their tuna catch quotas.

After overfishing of bluefin tuna -- a popular fish for sushi and sashimi -- depleted stocks, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) set a tentative target to recover stocks of large tuna each weighing 30 kilograms or more to 43,000 metric tons by 2024. Japan is a member of the WCPFC along with the United States and 24 other countries and regions.

In mid-July, the ISC, which provides scientific information and advice to the WCPFC, concluded that there are 18 estimated patterns with which the provisional target can be achieved with a probability of over 70 percent during a general meeting held in South Korea. Even if countries raise their tuna catch quotas by up to 15 percent without differentiating between large tuna and small tuna weighing under 30 kilograms, the probability of achieving the provisional target would be 74 percent, according to the estimate. The committee, which comprises scientists from Japan, the U.S. and other areas, presented the view that it was possible to raise country-by-country catch quotas as the stocks have been on a recovery track since 2011.

Based on the estimate, Japan will propose boosting tuna fishing quotas to a subcommittee meeting of the WCPFC to be held in the city of Fukuoka from Sept. 4 to 7 for possible discussion.

The WCPFC decided to introduce the country-by-country catch quota for bluefin tuna in 2014 citing possible resource depletion. Japan's quota is set at 4,007 tons for small tuna and 4,882 tons for large tuna, but those engaged in coastal fishing have complained that the quotas are too small.

(Japanese original by Akiko Kato, Business News Department)

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