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2014年9月 2日 (火)

(社説)海の幸の保護 多様な手段で効果的に

September 01, 2014
EDITORIAL: Diverse efforts needed to protect marine resources
(社説)海の幸の保護 多様な手段で効果的に

International concern is growing over the dwindling populations of the Pacific bluefin tuna and the Japanese eel, or “nihon unagi,” but they are not the only fishes that need protection.

This autumn, the Fisheries Agency will introduce, on a trial basis, a system to allocate chub mackerel fishing quotas to individual fishery operators working in the Pacific.

Japan has been imposing annual limits on total catches of each of seven different fishes, including the chub mackerel, or “masaba” in Japanese, which is also known as the Pacific mackerel.

This system is based on scientific estimates of maximum permissible catches made from the viewpoint of protecting the resources.

But such limits on overall catches by all fishing boats tend to spur competition among individual fishery operators based on the “first come, first served” principle.

The new quota system is designed to promote carefully planned fishing operations based on market forecasts while alleviating discontent among fishery operators about the system.

There is deep backlash among people working in the fisheries sector about the government’s move to enhance public control over their operations. That’s because many regional fishery operators’ groups and local fishermen’s cooperatives have been voluntarily controlling their total catches to protect stocks.

Fishery operators are also concerned that they could be forced to decommission their ships and discontinue their businesses if regulatory restrictions on their operations are tightened progressively.

In fact, experts have pointed out various benefits of the Japanese-style voluntary management of fishing operations. Self-imposed restrictions on catches are effective because they are based on agreements among fishery operators, experts say. They also argue that voluntary efforts to control catches are more cost-effective than public control, which requires officials in charge of monitoring and enforcement.

However, it is also true that, in the case of management by fishermen’s cooperatives, upper limits on catches tend to be decided based on whether the catches are rich or poor at that time and, as a result, lack scientific reasoning.

The best approach to the problem would be a combination of self-imposed restrictions and public management for the most effective protection of valuable marine resources.

The planned trial of a mackerel quota for each fishery operator should be used to assess both the advantages and disadvantages of the system. After the test, the government should act swiftly to decide on measures to conserve stocks of other fishes that need to be protected more effectively.

Among the operations that should be better controlled are walleye pollack fishing in northern areas of the Sea of Japan and Japanese puffer fishing in wide areas involving 20 prefectures.

It should not be forgotten that restricting catches is only a small part of efforts needed to ensure sustainable consumption of limited marine resources and stable income for fishery operators.

Various other steps are needed to tackle the raft of challenges confronting the nation’s fisheries sector. They include improving the environment for fishes through measures like developing seaweed beds and expanding aquaculture by taking advantage of latest knowledge in various areas. It is also important to increase the income of workers in the sector by promoting businesses that not only catch fishes but also process them and sell tasty and easy-to-eat seafood products.

As for Pacific bluefin tuna, Japan, the largest consumer of the fish, has decided to halve its catch of immature fish that weigh less than 30 kilograms. The Japanese government also plans to propose halving the international catch of young Pacific bluefin tuna during an international conference in September.

The listing of the Japanese eel on the Red List of Threatened Species, released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature on June 12, could lead to a future international ban on trade in the fish.

Delays in responding to such issues often make it necessary to take drastic, large-scale measures to deal with them later. The risk that the measures are too late will also increase.

Quick actions are vital for protecting important ingredients of the Japanese diet.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 31


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