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Japan gov't says global warming is factor in fishing industry issues, poor catches

This Nov. 9, 2020 file photo shows Pacific saury at Hanasaki port in Nemuro, Hokkaido. (Mainichi/Hiroaki Homma)

TOKYO -- The Japanese government aims to tackle fishing industry issues while identifying global warming as one cause of recent years' continuous poor catches of Pacific saury, salmon and other fish in the nation's waters.

    It will be the first time the national government has taken fishing countermeasures against global warming while also designating the phenomenon as one reason for small catches. The government will urge fisheries to change their business models while considering their impact on climate change.

    The Fisheries Agency will prepare measures by early June. In anticipation that poor catches will continue, the agency is set to draw up plans for the fishing industry to shift to a system adaptable to environmental changes, such as by diversifying types of fish caught and fishing methods. The countermeasures will also be reflected in the basic plan for fisheries, a medium- to long-term fishing administration policy set for establishment in spring next year.

    According to the agency, domestic catch of Pacific saury, salmon, and Japanese flying squid began falling rapidly around 2014. In total, 141,803 metric tons of them were caught in 2019, down 74.1% on 2014's catch. 2019 saw record-low figures reported for the catch of all three.

    In response to the developments, the Fisheries Agency set up a review committee in April 2021 and has been holding discussions on the future of fisheries. During the talks, the agency analyzed trends concerning saury, salmon, and Japanese flying squid. It found that fishing locations for saury had moved to offshore locations, that Japanese flying squid spawning grounds had shrunk, and that lower rates of salmon return to their release sites. It determined that climate change, such as rising sea water temperatures and oceanic current changes, was behind small catches.

    Although regular periods of poor and bountiful catches used to be cyclical, the agency expressed concern that "going forward, it is possible catches won't return to their original amounts and that poor hauls will continue."

    Because prolonged poor catch periods are highly damaging to fishing businesses, the agency aims for the industry to fish in accordance with the state of natural resources by urging them to diversify their catch and fishing methods as a way to reduce risks. As part of environmental measures, the agency will also make advancements in electric fishing vessels.

    (Japanese original by Taiki Asakawa, Tokyo Business News Department)

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