OPRT Business Plan for Fiscal 2020
Current status of tuna stock and tuna fishing and the challenges of Organization for the Promotion of responsible Tuna Fisheries (OPRT)
1. With respect to the status of tuna stocks related to the OPRT registered large-scale tuna long-liners, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) decided at its 2017 regular meeting to increase the total allowable catch (TAC) gradually during the three years from 2018 through 2020 for East Atlantic Ocean bluefin tuna, noting they continued to be on a recovery trend. The TAC for 2020 is 36,000 tons.
The stock assessment is to be updated this year. The TAC and other conservation and management measures will be updated based on the updated assessment.
The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) increased the SBT TAC for the 2018 – 2020 period by 3,000 tons over the previous period, noting they are also on a recovery trend.<br>This year, a new stock assessment will be made, based on which a new TAC for the next three years will be decided through the MP (Management Procedure) and the allocations to member and cooperating non-member countries will be agreed.<br>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.
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.
2. Regarding the stock assessment of bigeye tuna, the major source of sashimi tuna quantitatively, the Scientific Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in 2017 assessed that the bigeye stock had not been overfished and overfishing had not been occurring throughout the previous assessment period, marking a sudden change from the earlier assessment of “overfished and overfishing” for 2014 and subsequent years. The Scientific Committee determinations was made in the face of the continued increase in the catch of juvenile bigeyes over decades by the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) by large-scale purse-seiners. This overly optimistic assessment is by far different from the actual feeling of the front-line longline fishermen and distributors in the Japanese market. It has to be corrected. While non-recoverable damages to the stock are feared to be caused by the possible erroneous assessment, lax conservation and management measures have been applied between 2018 and 2020, based on the overly optimistic assessment. This year, the stock assessments for bigeyes and yellowfins are going to be updated and new conservation and management measures will be considered. The optimistic assessment of 2017 is largely a consequence of the introduction of the new ageing methodology and resultant growth model. The question as to whether the new model is superior to the old one is still pending, involving IATTC in the discussion.
For the Atlantic bigeye, the 2018 stock assessment determined “overfished and overfishing,” acknowledging advancing deterioration. After a year-long negotiations, the conservation and management measures were updated for the two years 2020 and 2021. However, the agreed TAC reductions are minimal, and the effectiveness of the modified country allocation (only for the year 2020), area and period extension of the ban on FADs operation and other measures can be seen only in 2021. In addition, pending matters are to be discussed at an intersessional meeting and will be finalized at the 2020 regular meeting. Regarding the Eastern Pacific, the IATTC staff has determined that the situation has worsened to “not overfished and overfishing is taking place.” In the face of expanded use of FADs and increasing efficiency, the IATTC staff has recommended that regulations be tightened on purse-seiners. However, no agreement was reached in this respect at the last year’s annual meeting (held in July). The current measures expire at the end of 2020. Accordingly, the conservation and management measures need to be updated this year, based on a more sophisticated stock assessment.
As for the Indian Ocean, the yellowfin stock was assessed to be “overfished and overfishing” (IOTC Scientific Committee 2015 Report). The Scientific Committee warns that the total catch has been increasing even though some tightening measures were attempted. The Scientific Committee also adopted a recommendation at its December 2019 meeting that its updated stock assessment for bigeye tuna (“not overfished but subject to overfishing”) calls for at least 10% reduction in the total catch from the current level.
For all these reasons, we must monitor carefully the moves that RFMOs take in stock assessment and conservation and management measures on bigeye and yellowfin tunas, the two major sources of sashimi tuna in terms of both quantity and price. Vis-a-vis those RFMOs, we must continue working aggressively so that appropriate measures would be taken toward sustainable use of the stocks.
On another matter, the Management Procedure (MP) and the Harvest Control Rules applied to southern bluefin tuna by CCSBT and to skipjack tuna by IOTC and other new catch management methods are going to be employed by WCPFC and ICCAT in the stock management of bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna and others. The world trend tends to give preferential treatment to FADs-based purse-seine fisheries, and we must keep close watch and promote advocacy for an effective framework which would ensure fair treatment among all types of fisheries including longline.
3. Regarding Pacific bluefin tuna, the regulatory measures to cut down to half the catch volume of small fish (weighing less than 30kg) from the average level of 2002-2004 have been implemented. The examination toward the introduction of a catch documentation scheme covering this stock has already 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 have been continued with the aim to realize the registration at the earliest possible time.
It is expected that the registration of Taiwanese small-size longline fishing vessels will lead to enhance management of longline fishery. 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.
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.
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 June 2019, the leaders of the G20 reaffirmed in the Declaration their commitment to end IUU fishing. Preparations for possible introduction of a catch documentation scheme have already begun in Japan, too. As the world’s largest market of sashimi tuna, Japan has a unique responsibility to play in applying tighter monitoring of imported tuna species that are subject to catch controls in order to prevent inflow of products caught by IUU fishing activities.
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. 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. 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 implementation of DNA identification. In order to secure prompt and accurate process and analysis of data submitted to the Fisheries Agency under its prior confirmation system for frozen tuna import, OPRT will properly carry out the work undertaken.
Effective January 2020 at IATTC and April 2020 at WCPFC, small fishing boats (less than 100 ton, 12 m or more in length and authorized to operate outside the EEZ of the flag country) are required to have their IMO numbers registered in addition to larger fishing boats of 100 ton or more registered already. It is hoped that this expansion of the requirement will lead to more accurate understanding of the fishing situation. Relative also to Paragraph 4 above, it is important that quicker feedbacks about the tuna exports from OPRT member country vessels to Japan should be given to the members and other related parties to ensure effective control and management.
In parallel, information exchange and dialogs should be promoted among OPRT members to deepen mutual understandings about international tuna trade and other related matters to help the members implement effective measures for the promotion of responsible tuna fisheries.
6. The Catch Documentation Scheme that is believed to be the most effective enforcement mechanism to keep out tunas caught by IUU fishing vessels from international markets, is now implemented to ensure the traceability of Atlantic bluefin tuna and SBT from the point of capture through markets. ICCAT now requires the use of the Electronic Bluefin Tuna Catch Document (e-BCD) program. We need to watch the implementation of this initiative keeping in mind that the e-BCD will be introduced to cover the bigeye stock and others in future.
In addition, we watch closely developments and implementation for Catch Documentation Scheme for effective traceability on fish products in general, and for electronic reporting and electronic monitoring system for tuna fisheries.
7. Several international environmental organizations are persistently staging their campaigns calling for protection of not only tuna 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.
Operators of longline tuna fisheries who promote responsible fishing should continue to abide by the pertinent measures to this effect and make necessary public relations efforts to earn wider understanding from the general public.
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 (Not only in terms of sustainable use of resources, but also as ingredients with excellent freshness and quality) produced by large-scale tuna longline fishing vessels.
9. The FOC vessel scrapping project was implemented financed by the Japanese government on condition that the fund used for the project shall be paid-off. Then, FOC project fee has been levied from the duly registered vessels of Japan, Taiwan and legitimized vessels of Vanuatu and Seychelles. The collection of the fee will continue in the same framework from 2020 business year on until full pay-off is made. Collected fees will be paid to the Overseas Fishery Cooperation Foundation.
Business PlanTaking 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
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 Overseas Fishery Cooperation Foundation)