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Japan Fisheries Agency proposes 15% increase in Pacific bluefin tuna quota

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

TOKYO -- Japan's Fisheries Agency proposed to an international organization that conserves and manages Pacific bluefin tuna, a highly popular fish for sushi or sashimi, to increase fishing quotas for the species starting next year.

Discontent had been rising within the Japanese fishing industry, as Pacific bluefin tuna stocks have shown some recovery in recent years.

The proposal to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) would raise the fishing quota of small (less than 30 kilograms) Pacific bluefin tuna and large Pacific bluefin tuna (30 kilograms and over) by 15 percent each. It also stipulates that if fishermen do not reach their quota in a certain year, then up to 5 percent of the remainder can be carried over to the following year.

The proposal will be deliberated at a WCPFC meeting in September.

According to the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-Like Species in the North Pacific Ocean (ISC), which provides scientific information and recommendations to the WCPFC, Pacific bluefin tuna that are capable of laying eggs hit a record low of 12,000 metric tons in 2010, but the figure had bounced back to 21,000 tons by 2016. The WCPFC's provisional target is to rebuild the Pacific bluefin tuna population to 43,000 tons by 2024, but the ISC says that even if Japan's annual fishing quota were raised by 15 percent, there is a 70-percent chance that the WCPFC's figure would be achieved.

If Japan's quota is increased, it would be the first time since current country-based quotas went into effect in 2014. The proposal must gain unanimous support, however, and as there is a possibility that some countries may oppose the proposal, arguing that Pacific bluefin tuna populations are still on their way to recovery, the proposal's prospects remain unclear.

(Japanese original by Akiko Kato, Business News Department)

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