The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about restrictions on tuna fishing following moves to increase catch quotas.
Question: I heard that it's become possible to catch lots of tuna now, right?
Answer: An international conference was held in July to discuss how much bluefin tuna can be caught in the Pacific Ocean, including the waters near Japan. Five countries and regions, including Japan, Taiwan and the United States took part, and agreed to increase next year's catch quota for large bluefin tuna weighing 30 kilograms or more by a uniform 15%. A formal decision is set to be reached by November following three meetings. Under the proposed changes, Japan's catch will increase to 5,614 metric tons.
Q: So you can't just catch however much you want?
A: That's right. Bluefin tuna, known in Japan as "hon maguro" (real tuna), are popular for high-end sushi and sashimi, but the population of the species has decreased due to overfishing, so catches are strictly controlled. Bluefin tuna are migratory and swim great distances, so it is necessary for countries and regions that fish them to adopt measures in concert. Every year, a meeting is held to determine the following year's catch, and fishery workers are required to operate within the quota.
Q: Some people also fish bluefin tuna for sport, right?
A: Japan's Fisheries Agency tightened regulations on leisure fishing in June. It banned fishing of bluefin tuna weighing less than 30 kilograms, and to ascertain the situation, made it compulsory for sport fishers to report catches of tuna weighing 30 kilograms or more. With this requirement in place, it turned out that far more tuna was being caught than officials had imagined. In just half of the month of June, the amount caught reached the roughly 10 tons expected for an entire year. As a result, fishing for larger tuna was also banned from late August as a temporary measure. Under the Fishery Act, malicious violators of the ban face up to one year's imprisonment or a fine of no more than 500,000 yen (about $4,520).
Q: Is it necessary to be that tough?
A: You could say it's unavoidable to maintain an environment in which bluefin tuna can be caught in the future. It is important for both fishery workers and anglers not to overfish and to abide by the rules.
(Answers by Taiki Asakawa, Business News Department)