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Japan to toughen regulations on sport fishing as resource control measure

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TOKYO -- The Japanese government is set to strengthen regulations on sport fishing to more thoroughly manage the country's aquatic resources.

    The new regulations would include requesting hobbyists using sport fishing and pleasure boat businesses registered with prefectural governments to report their catches of certain species. If the preservation of a species was deemed at risk from sport fishing, then new catch limits would be considered.

    Fishery Act revisions that took effect in December 2020 imposed greater catch management responsibilities on professional fishermen and women, and officials decided some regulation of the hitherto mostly laissez-faire world of sport fishing would be needed as well.

    There are some restrictions on sport fishing in Japan now. The prefectures have imposed their own no-fishing areas, fishing seasons, and rules on the size of fish that can be caught. However, most of these regulations are designed to protect juvenile fish stocks and avoid disputes between sport and professional fishers. The new policy, drawn up with aquatic resource management at its core, would impose a uniform catch reporting system across the entire country, including for people sport fishing in coastal waters.

    The fish species to be covered have yet to be decided, but varieties already covered by catch limits for professional fishermen and women such as mackerel and Pacific saury are likely to be included.

    The Fisheries Agency is set to revise its medium to long-term marine industry administration plan in spring 2022, and is set to include a passage stating that the agency will aim to impose resource management on sport fishing consistent with that for commercial fishing. The general direction of regulatory changes will be set at the government's aquatic industries policy committee meeting on Dec. 17.

    Advance sport fishing regulations on Pacific bluefin tuna, a species managed internationally, went into effect in June 2021. The rules include a ban on catching tuna weighing under 30 kilograms, and a duty to report catches of any larger fish to authorities -- the latter an effort to discover exactly how much tuna was being caught by sport fishers.

    What the reporting requirement revealed was that sport fishers had reeled in about 10 metric tons of bluefin tuna -- the government's estimated catch for an entire year -- in just half a month from the start of the new rules. Japan then imposed a ban on tuna sport fishing from late August to the end of May 2022.

    One Fisheries Agency executive told the Mainichi Shimbun, "Sport fishing catches were always thought to be far too small to bother with resource control. But we discovered that the real amounts are far, far larger than expected," adding that tougher regulations on fishing for species besides tuna were also necessary. There have also been figures on the professional fishery side calling for a degree of regulation of sport fishing to ensure fairness.

    (Japanese original by Taiki Asakawa, Business News Department)

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