OPRT Business Plan for Fiscal 2016
The current state of tuna resources and tuna fisheries and the issues facing OPRT
1. Regarding the Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna for which increase of the total allowable catch (TAC) was first achieved two years ago, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) agreed at its Annual Meeting in November 2015 to further expand TAC for 2016-2017 based on the recommendations of its Scientific Committee (SCRS). Furthermore, TAC for the Western Atlantic bluefin tuna–which was increased in 2015—will be maintained and continued in 2016 as well. As for the stock of southern bluefin tuna, the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) confirmed and agreed at its Annual Meeting in October 2015 to apply also in 2016-2017 the expanded 2015 TAC and allocations which the CCSBT agreed at its 2013 Annual Meeting, following, among others, the advices from its Scientific Committee. However, the pending issue of the introduction of stereoscopic cameras in the farming cages–as committed by Australia–has not been resolved. It is necessary to realize the use of this device as soon as possible in order to improve accuracy of statistics and stock assessment.
In the days ahead, we need to watch carefully so that the stock recovery plans of each regional tuna fisheries management organization (RFMO) are further promoted and achieve their initial objectives.
2. On other fronts, the stock of bigeye tuna continues to be in a critical state in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) which is the largest fishing ground of tunas in the world. At a Scientific Committee meeting of the Western and Central Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in 2014, the bigeye tuna stock was subject to rigid assessment that it was in the category of “excessive fishing and overfished.” Nevertheless, at its Annual Meeting in December 2015, no new measures (reduction of the number of purse seine vessels and strengthened regulations of their operation associated with fish aggregating devices (FADs)) were introduced to regulate effectively the operation using FADs in purse-seine fisheries. FAD-based operation is considered to be the largest factor causing overfishing. In that type of fisheries, regulatory measures adopted up to 2014 are still continued. Under such circumstances, the capacity of medium- and large-size purse-seine fishing vessels has not been reduced and the activities of small- and medium-size longline fishing vessels (i.e. smaller than ordinary OPRT-registered longline fishing vessels) are increasing, creating a strong concern over further deterioration of the stock. We need to continue to watch attentively, and act accordingly, so that effective regulatory measures leading to the recovery of the bigeye tuna stock in the WCPO will be duly implemented.
In the Atlantic as well, the bigeye tuna stock was assessed to the category of “excessively fished and overfished” at ICCAT’s SCRS in October 2015. Based on the Committee’s recommendations, ICCAT reduced TAC for bigeye from 85,000 tons to 65,000 tons at its Annual Meeting in November 2015. But we need to direct special attention to how FAD-based purse-seine fishing in the Gulf of Guinea will be effectively regulated.
Serious concern is expressed also to the yellowfin tuna stock. The Scientific Committee of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) assessed last year that the stock was in the category of “excessive fishing and overfished.” We need to be mindful of stock assessments to be renewed by scientific bodies of the RFMOs.
3. With respect to the Pacific bluefin tuna for which the decrease in spawning biomass is a matter of serious concern, the WCPFC implemented the regulatory measure to reduce the catch of juvenile fish (less than 30kg) to half the amount from the 2002-2004 average level–a measure agreed at the WCPFC Annual Meeting in December 14. In 2015, the WCPFC agreed on the introduction of emergency measures in case low recruitment continued. The Commission is planned to formulate the concrete contents of the said measures this year. As the country having the largest market for the Pacific bluefin tuna, Japan needs to continue its effort to monitor import volume and other data rigorously and contribute to ensuring the compliance with the catch regulation where necessary so that the recovery of the stock will be achieved as initially envisaged.
4. With regard to the issue of overcapacity, OPRT has restrained the increase in the number of large-size longline fishing vessels since its foundation in cooperation with its Members. OPRT needs to continue these efforts based on the agreement among its Members at the World Conference of Tuna Longline Fisheries in 2003. In order not to reduce such efforts of OPRT to nil, RFMOs need to make efforts to realize effective measures at the earliest possible time, including strengthening of management of large-scale purse-seine fisheries and introduction of monitoring and management measures for medium- and small-size purse-seine fishing vessels. Negotiations are underway between the Japanese and Taiwanese governments to require Taiwanese small-scale longline fishing vessels that target bigeye and export frozen tunas caught to Japan to be registered with OPRT by the end of 2016.
5. The international community is increasingly aware of the need to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities, and actions for prevention of such activities are being strengthened. In order to fulfill its obligation as the country having the largest sashimi tuna market in the world, Japan needs to monitor more rigorously the tunas subject to catch regulations that are imported to Japan with the aim to prevent the catch from IUU fishing from entering the Japanese market. Particularly, tuna laundering (i.e. falsified reports on the catch species and fishing ground and misrepresentation of the vessel name) by RFMO-registered fishing vessels diminishes the effectiveness of resource management measures. It is necessary to utilize various approaches in a comprehensive manner including collection of information by means of vessel’s proper identification information (IMO number)–introduced at RFMOs in 2016–, analyses of imported tuna data, and inspection of DNA data.
6. The Catch Documentation Scheme, designed to ensure traceability from the production to landing of the catch, is currently implemented for the Atlantic bluefin tuna and the southern bluefin tuna, with the aim to keep out the tunas caught by IUU fishing vessels from the international markets. ICCAT will require from May 1, 2016 the use of Electronic Bluefin Tuna Catch Document (eBCD) program to ensure greater efficiency and effectiveness (also making possible the use of the documents for a certain period of time). There is a need to ensure steady implementation of this new initiative.
7. Several international environmental organizations are constantly continuing their campaigns to call for protection of not only tunas and but also marine species caught incidentally in tuna fisheries (sea birds, sea turtle and sharks). Under these circumstances, it is necessary to continue collection of information in collaboration with other parties promoting sustainable use of marine resources. At the same time, it is essential to step up our publicity activities so that public understanding can be gained on tuna longline fishing that promotes responsible fisheries.
Since CITES COP17 will be held in South Africa in this autumn, efforts will be strengthened for information gathering and other activities, as necessary.
8. In Japan, consumers tend to reduce fish consumption and the competition between seafood and other food commodities is intensifying. Amid this situation, greater efforts than ever should be made to publicize the “promotion of sustainable utilization of tunas caught under appropriate stock management scheme” — which is one of the stated missions of OPRT. Such efforts should include expanding opportunities to appeal the positive characteristics of sashimi tuna to consumers.
9. Efforts should be continued to carry out the payment program under the “FOC Fishing Vessel Scrapping Project,” due to be completed in fiscal 2019, through smooth collection of project liabilities borne by Japanese vessels, Taiwanese vessels and legitimatized vessels of Vanuatu and the Seychelles.
Taking the above situation into consideration, OPRT will carry out the following activities, in order to contribute to the sustainable development of tuna fisheries and stable supply of tunas to the markets through promotion of the measures to reinforce the conservation and management of tuna resources,(1) Monitoring of the state of tuna resources and the trend of international stock management by RFMOs;
－Monitoring of developments of stock management by RFMOs;
－Monitoring the excessive environmental movement against tuna fisheries
(2) Promotion of effective resources management
i. Prevention, deterrence and elimination of IUU fishing activities;
－Monitoring of production of tunas imported by Japan
－Monitoring of Positive Lists of RFMOs
－Implementation of DNA inspection
－Monitoring the implementation of electoronized catch documentation scheme
ii. Promotion of control of fishing capacity;
iii. Management of OPRT-registered fishing vessels;
iv. Monitoring of the international transactions of second-hand tuna longline fishing vessels; research on the status of exported second-hand vessels; and
v. Mitigation of incidental take
－Measures to mitigate incidental take of seabirds, sea turtle and sharks
(3) Promotion of the responsible tuna fisheries through promotion of sustainable use of tuna resources
－Implementation of campaign for sashimi tunas, focusing October 10th as Tuna Day.
―Support for, and stepping-up of, the events related to the tunas campaign
(4) Research and studies on management, trade and market of tuna resources
－Monitoring of the distribution of tunas imported to Japan’s sashimi market
(5) Promotion of international interchanges and cooperation among fishers for contributing conservation and management of tuna resources;
－holding of meetings for exchange of views and information
－Provision of information to members, as necessary
(6) Promotion of, and education on responsible tuna fisheries
i. Renewal of OPRT pamphlet
ii. Publication of OPRT Newsletters (in Japanese and English)
iii. Provision of information through OPRT website to the public
iv. Holding of OPRT seminars
v. Promotion to increase Supporting Members
vi. Promotion of activities through cooperation with friendly organizations
(7) Management of the fund for the FOC vessel scrapping project