OPRT Business Plan for Fiscal 2017
The current state of tuna resources and tuna fisheries, and the issues facing OPRT
1. An overview of the state of tuna resources related to OPRT-registered large-size tuna longline fishing vessels.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) confirmed at its annual meeting in November, 2016 that it would increase the total allowable catch (TAC) for the Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna in 2017 by 20% over that in the preceding year in accordance with the recommendation made at its annual meeting in November 2015. With regard to the Western Atlantic bluefin tuna stock, the Commission confirmed that it would retain and carry on the 2015 expanded TAC to 2017.
With regard to the stock of southern bluefin tuna, the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) agreed at its annual meeting in October 2016 to apply in 2018-2020 the allowable catch–the current TAC plus 3,000 tons–as well as the national quotas under the TAC accordingly, following its Scientific Committee’s recommendation that suggested the stock recovery. However, the pending issue of the introduction of stereoscopic cameras in the farming cages–as committed by Australia several years ago for the purpose of improving the data precision regarding, among others, the quantities of southern bluefin tuna provided for farming in that country–remains unresolved.
The stocks both of Atlantic bluefin tuna and the southern bluefin tuna are thus on a recovery trend, but, as further recovery is being targeted, the efforts for stock recovery at regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) should be promoted further and watched attentively in the years ahead so that the stated goals can be duly fulfilled.
2. The stock of bigeye tuna–that constitutes the bulk of sashimi tunas in terms of quantity–is deteriorated in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), which is the world’s largest fishing ground of tuna and tuna-like species. The stock has been assessed to the “overfishing is occurring and overfished—(a state in which spawning biomass stays below the certain limit)” category. However, this critical situation continues with no new measures being introduced to purse-seine tuna fishing–allegedly the largest factor causing the stock deterioration–either in the form of implementation of the measures leading to reduction of the number of net-sets associated with Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) or reduction in the fishing capacity by way of curtailing the number of purse-seine fishing vessels. At its annual meeting in December 2013, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) adopted a multiple-year (2014-2017) management program as a conservation and management measure (CMM) for tropical tuna (bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack). In the implementation of this program, major longline fishing members–Japan, Taiwan, Korea and China–made earnest efforts to reduce their catch of bigeye in accordance with to the agreed schedule (Attachment F of the CMMs, while, as mentioned in the foregoing, no concrete measures have been implemented for purse-seine fishing for reducing fishing operations using FADs or decreasing fishing capacity as a whole.
Further, there is a grave concern that the stock status could deteriorate further as activities by small- and medium-size longline vessels installed with super-low-temperature freezers ,including utilization of transportation with freezing containers for their catches have been expanded.
There is a need to closely monitor the activities of the RFMOs and make strong appeal to the organizations so that they fulfill their responsibility in the areas under their competence and take effective regulatory measures without delay that can lead to recovery of bigeye.
In the Atlantic as well, the bigeye stock was assessed to the category of “overfishing and overfished” at ICCAT’s SCRS in October 2015. The stock was also categorized as “overfished” in the Eastern Pacific by the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) in May 2016. Regarding the yellowfin tuna stock, the Scientific Committee of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) in December 2015 assessed it to the category of “overfishing and overfished” in the Indian Ocean.
From the foregoing, it is necessary to monitor the stock assessments by RFMOs and appeal to them to take appropriate measures toward the realization of sustainable use of the resources.
Furthermore, there are moves in the WCPFC to apply new Management Procedure (MP) such as Harvest Control Rules (HCRs)—like CCSBT which has introduced it for southern bluefin tuna management and like IOTC for skipjack tuna –to stock management of bigeye, yellowfin and others. In this respect, there is a need to monitor the activities of the RFMOs and appeal to them to realize equitable and effective measures among related fisheries.
3. With respect to Pacific bluefin tuna for which the decrease in spawning biomass is a matter of serious concern, the WCPFC’s regulatory measures to reduce the catch of juvenile fish (less than 30kg) to half the amount from the 2002-2004 average level (as agreed at the Commission’s 2014 meeting) have been implemented. The WCPFC agreed at its 2015 annual meeting on the introduction of emergency measures in case low recruitment rates continued. But no concrete conclusion were formulated for the emergency rule and the next recovery target at the 2016 Northern Committee (NC) meeting. At its annual meeting last December, the Commission called for expeditious discussion on this issue at NC. As the largest consuming nation of this stock, Japan is requested to strive to promote discussion on the management measures and rigorously monitor the amount of tunas imported to the country. It is necessary to watch carefully the developments on this issue.
4. Regarding the issue of overcapacity, OPRT has restrained the increase in the overall number of large-size longline fishing vessels since its foundation in cooperation with its Members. We need to continue this effort in the future based on the agreement among its Members at the World Conference of Tuna Longline Fisheries in 2003 toward the goal of realizing sustainable use of tuna resources. At the same time, in order to carry on the effects of OPRT’s efforts over the past years, RFMOs need to realize without delay the effective measures including, as necessary, strengthening of management of large-size purse-seine fishing and monitoring of the activities of small- and medium-size longline fishing vessels.
Negotiations between the Japanese and Taiwanese governments over the issue of registration with OPRT of Taiwanese small-size longline fishing vessels that export frozen tunas (notably bigeye), were not settled by the end of 2016. But talks are underway between the two governments on ways to realize the registration at an earliest time. Effective management should be promoted for those vessels registered with OPRT.
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 bolstered on a global scale, as observed, among others, in early June. 2016 , the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU Fishing of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) entered into force .
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 to be imported to Japan with the aim to bar the catch from IUU fishing from entering the Japanese market. Particularly, tuna laundering (including 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 utilizing vessel’s unique identifier (IMO number)–introduced at RFMOs in 2016–, analyses of imported tuna data, and inspection of DNA data.
6. With regard to the Catch Documentation Scheme–now implemented to ensure the traceability of Atlantic bluefin tuna and southern bluefin tuna with the aim to keep out the tunas caught by IUU fishing vessels from international markets–, ICCAT came to require from June 6, 2016 the use of the Electronic Bluefin Tuna Catch Document (e-BCD) program (provided that the use of paper documents is allowed in some cases). We need to promote appropriate implementation of this initiative.
7. Several international environmental organizations are persistently staging their campaigns calling 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.
8. In Japan, generally speaking, fish consumption tends to decrease amid intensifying competition between seafood and other food commodities. Under this circumstance, 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 to consumers the positive characteristics of sashimi tuna.
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 FOC vessel scrapping project