2019 OPRT Business Year

OPRT Business Plan for Fiscal 2019

The current state of tuna resources and tuna fisheries, and the issues facing OPRT

1. When we observe the state of tuna resources related to OPRT-registered large-size tuna long-liners, as far as bluefin tunas in the East Atlantic Ocean, whose resources have been continually in a recuperative trend, is concerned, the previous year’s annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) agreed upon the total allowable catch (TAC) to be gradually increased for three years (from 2018 to 2020). Regarding the TAC, the ICCAT annual meeting in November 2018 decided to allocate non-allocated TAC as national catch quota.<br>In addition, regarding southern bluefin tuna, whose resources have been also in recuperative trend, the Annual Meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) held in October 2018 decided to continue examining a new method to be employed in 2021, which was necessitated by the decision of changing the resource investigation method (terminating the aerial investigation) regarding the management system to automatically calculate TAC according to the resource status. However, it should be noted that the pending issue of the introduction of stereoscopic video cameras in gates of the farming cages –as committed by Australia a number of years ago for the purpose to improve the precision of the data including that on the quantities of SBT provided for farming in that country– has not yet been resolved.<br>As noted in the foregoing, the stocks both of Atlantic bluefin tuna and the SBT are on a recovery trend. But there is need to continue to watch attentively so that the stated goals can be fulfilled through redoubled efforts of the regional tuna fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) in the years ahead because further stock recovery should be pursued.

2. Regarding bigeye tuna resources, which quantitatively constitutes the major part of sashimi tuna, the catch of young fish had been increasing for many years due to the usage of fish aggregating devices (FADs) by large-scale purse-seine fisheries. In 2014 Scientific Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) assessed that it had been in the state of excess catch, and that the resources of spawning fish had been in the state of overfishing, going below the standard criteria.  However, at its meeting last August, the WCPFC Scientific Committee renewed its assessment of this stock and changed its status from the category of “overfishing and overfished” to the category of “neither overfishing nor overfished” for all the periods subjected to assessment.  This optimistic assessment is far from the sense of the fishermen in the front line of longline fishing and distributors in the Japanese market, and, therefore, it has a possibility of being revised in the future. While we worry about the possibility of this wrong assessment causing an irretrievable damage to the resources, the annual meeting held in December last year agreed to postpone to 2020 the execution of the conservation measures adopted in the 2017 annual meeting (including easing the execution in 2014-17 of the restriction on FADs and the employment of TAC control over major longline fishing countries, as well as cancelling the rules of reducing excess catching capacity). Regarding the change of the growth formula of bigeye tuna, which was the major cause of making the relevant resource assessment optimistic (by using a new age-investigation method), Japanese scientists and science staff of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) raised questions. This led to the start of the activity of the task force, which commenced in January this year, under IATTC, closely examining the ways to assess the ages of bigeye tuna and yellowfin tuna in the East and West Pacific Oceans. The result will be of grave importance to resource assessment so that it is necessary to take the advice of Japan into consideration, accelerate the collection of samples, and promote the cooperation for providing information.
As for bigeye tuna resources in the Atlantic Ocean, the ICCAT Scientific Committee held in October 2018 assessed that the situation had been aggravating since the resource assessment conducted three years before in 2015, which evaluated as “overfishing and excess catch.” The Scientific Committee urged an overall lowering of catch as well as reduction of catch of small fish. Nevertheless, the ICCAT annual meeting in November, facing objection of purse sein fishing countries and regions and some developing countries, failed in adopting a new conservation management measure complying with advice by the Scientific Committee, and decided to examine the measure again this year, prolonging the life of the conventional measure for another year.
In the East Pacific Ocean, the IATTC Scientific Advisory Committee two years ago assessed as “no excess catch nor overfishing.” Nonetheless, the re-assessment last year (changing the analysis method and revised the model) said, “No overfishing but excess catch,” presenting the assessment different from that of the previous year. Receiving this report, the science staff of IATTC advised that fishing by purse sein fishing vessels, except permitted vessels to encircle schools associated with dolphins, be prohibited after the fishing set has reached a certain frequency. However, IATTC annual meeting in August previous year, meeting objections of Ecuador and other countries, could not reach an agreement and decided to discuss again in the annual meeting this year.
Yellowfin tuna was assessed as “excess catch and overfishing” in the Indian Ocean (by the 2015 Scientific Committee of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)). ICCAT assessing too much catch of small fish as the cause of deterioration of the sources just like the case of bigeye tuna, decided to accelerate the overall resource evaluation of yellowfin tuna, and to commence the necessary tasks in the Scientific Committee this year. Judging from the viewpoints of quantities and prices of bigeye tuna and yellowfin tuna, the major resources of sashimi tuna, we need to remain watchful over the resource assessment and the examination of conversation control measure of each RFMO, and be ready to take necessary actions to make sure that appropriate measures are to be executed toward realization of sustainable utilization of each resource.  Further, there are visible moves to apply the new catch management schemes such as the Management Procedure (MP), Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE), as well as Harvest Control Rule(s) under them–which have already been introduced for SBT at the CCSBT and for skipjack at the IOTC –also to the stock management for bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack at the WCPFC.  Since the work on skipjack –a species of high interest among member countries with purse seine fleet– will be advanced ahead of the work on bigeye and yellowfin, there is need to watch attentively and take appropriate actions so that the measures will be equitable and effective among diverse types of fisheries in consideration of noticeable negative impact on the bigeye stock caused by the catch of juvenile bigeye in FAD operation targeting skipjack.

3..Regarding Pacific bluefin tuna–for which there has been a concern over decrease of spawning stock biomass–the WCPFC agreed at its Annual Meeting in 2014 to implement regulatory measures to cut down to half the catch volume of small fish (weighing less than 30kg) from the average level of 2002-2004.  In the WCPFC Northern Committee held in September 2018, Japan, based upon the rule decided in the previous year’s annual meeting to set the TAC according to recuperation status of resources, proposed to increase TAC one year later. However, the majority said it was too early, and the execution was postponed to next year or later. The examination toward the establishment of the fishery certification system has started.  Japan, as the largest consuming country of this stock, is called on to ensure the implementation of the management measures and to monitor import volume of products from this stock. It is crucial to watch the development of the situation with caution.

4. Regarding the issue of overcapacity, OPRT has, since its foundation, restrained the increase in the overall number of large-size longline fishing vessels 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 implement without delay the effective measures including, as necessary, strengthening of control of large-size purse-seine fishing vessels and monitoring of the activities of small- and medium-size longline fishing vessels.
Negotiations between the Japanese and Taiwanese governments over the issue of OPRT registration of Taiwanese small-size longline fishing vessels that target bigeye tuna and export frozen tunas to Japan are currently underway with the aim to realize the registration at the earliest possible time.

5. The increasing interest of the global society toward elimination of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities, worldwide efforts made by many countries including EU and the U.S., have been more reinforced than ever.  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 subjected to catch regulations that are to be imported to Japan and specifically identify fishing vessels engaged in IUU fishing with the aim to bar the IUU catch from entering the Japanese market. It is necessary to utilize various approaches in a comprehensive manner, including collection of information by utilizing vessel’s unique identifier (the International Maritime Organization (IMO) number), analyses of imported tuna data, and inspection of DNA data. In order to secure prompt and accurate process and analysis of data submitted to the Fisheries Agency under its prior confirmation system for tuna import, OPRT will properly carry out the work undertaken. 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 the resource management measures. Smaller vessels of less than 100 gross tonnage down to a size limit of 12 meters of length overall are required to obtain IMO number from 2020. (Effective January 2020 for IATTC and April 2020 for WCPFC), we need to watch carefully that the measures will be implemented effectively in those RFMOs.

6. In case any overseas longline tuna fisheries organizations express intention to acquire OPRT membership with a view to prevent and eliminate IUU fisheries and control fishing capacity, appropriate steps should be taken to examine the qualifications of such organizations based on the advice of appropriate authorities and related bodies of those countries. With regard to the Catch Documentation Scheme–now implemented to ensure the traceability of Atlantic bluefin tuna and SBT tuna with the aim to keep out the tunas caught by IUU fishing vessels from international markets–, ICCAT now requires the use of the Electronic Bluefin Tuna Catch Document (e-BCD) program (provided that the use of paper documents is allowed depending on 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 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 the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is scheduled to be held this year, where a proposal with a CITES appendix listing a certain species related to longline fishing has been submitted, we are going to remain watchful, and ready to take countermeasures when necessary.

8. In Japan, 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 OPRT’s stated missions. Such efforts should include expanding opportunities to appeal to consumers the positive characteristics of sashimi tuna produced by large-scale tuna longline fishing vessels.

9. Efforts should be continued to carry out the payment program under the “FOC Fishing Vessel Scrapping Project,” through smooth collection of payment from Japanese vessels, Taiwanese vessels, and legitimatized vessels of Vanuatu and Seychelles.

Business Plan

Taking the above situation into consideration, OPRT will carry out the following activities, with a view to reinforce conservation and management of tuna resources and contribute to the sustainable development of tuna fisheries and stable supply of tunas to the markets. OPRT is committed to steadily implement all the projects during this year to further promote responsible tuna fisheries.

(1) Monitor and analyze the state of tuna resources and the trend of international stock management

-Monitor the stock trend and management by RFMOs;
-Monitor the trend of extreme conservation campaign against tuna fisheries
(2) Promote effective resources management
i. Prevent and eliminate IUU fishing activities;
-Monitor production of tunas imported to Japan
-Monitor Positive Lists of RFMOs
-Conduct work related to the prior confirmation system for tuna import
-Implement DNA inspection
ii. Promote fishing capacity control;
iii. Management of OPRT-registered fishing vessels (including maintenance and management of the registered vessel list and its system modification);
iv. Monitor the international transactions of second-hand tuna longline fishing vessels; research on the status of exported second-hand vessels; and
v. Take steps to reduce the species subject to incidental catch; collect information
-Implement measures to mitigate incidental catch of seabirds, sea turtle and sharks
(3) Promote responsible tuna fisheries through promotion of sustainable use of tuna resources
– Implement campaigns for sashimi tunas, with a focus on “October 10 Tuna Day”.
-Support and enliven the events related to the tuna campaign
-Take part in seafood shows
(4) Research and studies on management, trade and market of tuna resources
-Monitor distribution of tunas imported to Japan’s sashimi market
-Survey international distribution of tunas
(5) Promote international exchanges and cooperation among fishers, and with others, to contribute to the promotion of conservation and management of tuna resources, including;
-Conduct meetings for exchange of views and information
-Provide related information and views.
(6) Promote and educate on the concept of responsible tuna fisheries
i. Produce and distribute OPRT pamphlets
ii. Publish OPRT Newsletters
iii. Provide information to the public through OPRT website
iv. Conduct OPRT seminars
v. Solicit new OPRT Supporting Members
vi. Promote activities through cooperation with friendly organizations
(7) Manage the fund for FOC vessel scrapping project
-Smooth collection of payment
-Payment of collected money to the National Treasury (via the Overseas Fisheries Cooperation Foundation)