2018 OPRT Business Year

OPRT Business Plan for Fiscal 2018

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) agreed at its annual meeting in November, 2017 that it would increase the total allowable catch (TAC) for the Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna –the stock that has shown a conspicuous growing trend– stepwise for the three years from the 2018 season, i.e. to 28,200 tons in 2018, up 19% over the preceding season, to 32,240 tons in 2019, up 37%, and to 36,000 tons in 2020, up 52%. With regard to the Western Atlantic bluefin tuna stock, the Commission also decided to increase TAC for 2018-2020 to 2,350 tons for each year, up 18% respectively over the 2017 season.Further, regarding the stock of southern bluefin tuna (SBT), the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) confirmed at its 2017 Annual Meeting that it would apply in 2018-2020 the total 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. 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 because further stock recovery should be pursued.
2 (1) As for stocks of bigeye tuna–that constitutes the bulk of sashimi tunas in terms of quantity– the Scientific Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) assessed that, in the aftermath of the high-level catch of juvenile fish using fish aggregating devices (FADs) by large-scale purse-seine fisheries that continued as long as 20 years, the stock had been assessed to be in the state of overfishing and also of overfished– a state in which the biomass of spawning fish stayed below the limit reference point. For this reason, China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan came to have the obligation to reduce their respective longline catch of bigeye tuna at gradual steps within the framework of the multiple year management measures covering 2014-2017. 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. The factor leading to such an optimistic assessment is linked to a newly introduced assessment approach (mainly review of the growth formula and the change in area divisions in the stock assessment). However, in the new growth formula (that provides for the maximum body size of 150 cm) large-size bigeye tunas that are caught in large-scale longline fishery are not included (whereas they were incorporated in the previous growth formula). Further, no clear explanations are given as regards the sea area divisions utilized in the new assessment. Thus it is difficult for fishermen to understand the contents (including the results) of the new assessment approach because they are far remoted from what fishers experience in their actual fishing operation. The Scientific Committee itself recognized that high level of uncertainties exist in the present assessment, noting that it is crucial to dissolve them. But the outlook remains opaque as no concrete discussion is taking place. Although the Scientific Committee recommended not to increase the current fishing mortality from the perspective of stock management, lengthy discussions took place at the WCPFC Annual Meeting in Manila in December 2017, which, in sum, led to the following agreement as a measure limited only to 2018. The regulatory measures on purse seine settings associated with FADs will be relaxed as follows: purse seine settings with FADs will be prohibited from 4 months to 3 months for exclusive economic zones (EEZs), and from 12 months to 5 months for the high seas. To the countries to which longline bigeye quota are applied, the 2016 quota levels provided for in previous CMMs up to CMM 2016-01 will be applied in 2018. The Bigeye TAC allocated to those countries for 2018 will be increased to 18,265 tons, up 8% over 2017. As a rule, the increase of TAC and stock recovery are something to welcome, but as far as the bigeye stock in the Western and Central Pacific is concerned, there is a serious anxiety that the deterioration of the stock to an irretrievable level can be accelerated as the stock assessment involves high-level uncertainties and there exist expectations to expand fishing opportunities for purse-seine settings associated with FADs mainly targeting skipjack tuna.
(2) Another cause of concern is that the activities by medium- and small-scale longline vessels are increasing, including those installed with super-low-temperature freezing facilities (including transportation by means of freezing containers), which certainly aggravates the impact on the stock. We need to watch cautiously and reinforce actions on the RFMOs so that they carry out their responsibility properly and ensure accurate implementation of the regulatory measures on bigeye tuna.
(3) The Scientific Advisory Committee of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) categorized the bigeye stock in the Eastern Pacific as “neither overfishing nor overfished” in May, 2017, in a shift from the previous assessment of “overfished.” But Japanese scientists will have consultations with the IATTC Scientific Staff on this matter on the ground that the recovery of CPUEs of large-scale longline vessels –which lead to the category change– may be questionable.
(4) Further, overall assessment of bigeye stock–the first in three years–was carried at ICCAT, and new conservation and management measures will be adopted at the next ICCAT Annual Meeting to be held in November this year. In the previous assessment carried out in 2015, the state of the stock was categorized as “Red” because of the increase of juvenile fish catch by purse-seine fisheries using FADs, and TAC was cut down from 85,000 tons to 65,000 tons. If the factors which had caused the stock deterioration were not controlled properly under the current management measures implemented from 2016-, there would be a fear that TAC to be renewed this year could be further curtailed.
(5) Further, since the Scientific Committee of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) assessed the yellowfin tuna stock in the area is in the category of “overfishing and overfished,” we should remain watchful over the stock assessment of each RFMO so that appropriate steps may be taken toward realization of sustainable stock utilization. We should also act on the RFMOs accordingly to that end.
(6) 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.
(7) In the autumn of 2017, there were wide-range news reports via general newspapers and nationwide TV networks that quantities of bigeye supplied to Japan’s sashimi market decreased, which caused retail price rallies to the disadvantage of consumers and created confusions among distributors. We should strive for the realization of bigeye stock recovery keeping in mind the occurrence of such a phenomenon.
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. At the Annual Meeting in December 2017, the Commission agreed on, namely endorsed the Northern Committee’s conclusion adopted at its meeting in early September, 2017, with respect to the emergency measures in case low recruitment continues (WCPFC agreed to introduce the measures at 2015 Annual Meeting), the rules on increasing or decreasing TAC according to the situation of stock recovery) as well as the introduction of the second goal for the stock recovery.
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 –initially anticipated to be settled before the end of 2016–are currently underway with the aim to realize the registration at the earliest possible time. We need to advance related work toward registration of those vessels with OPRT as well as effective management after the registration.
5. The international community is increasingly aware of the need to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities, and actions for prevention, deterrence and elimination of such activities are being bolstered on a global scale, including the United States and the European Union.
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)–introduced at RFMOs in 2016–, analyses of imported tuna data, and inspection of DNA data. In order to improve the precision of related data, RMFOs should require expeditiously the inclusion of IMO numbers in its list of registered vessels–also for small-size vessels of less than 100 gross tons.
At its 30th General Meeting in December 2017, IMO agreed to expand the range of application of the voluntary IMO Number Scheme to all inboard motored fishing vessels of total length less than 100 gross tons and 12 m in total length or larger that operate in the waters outside the jurisdiction of the flag state. The RFMOs should adopt without delay the necessary measures to ensure effective utilization of this scheme for smaller fishing vessels.
Also, 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.
6. 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.
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 the 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 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
-Implement DNA inspection
ii. Promote fishing capacity control;
iii. Management of OPRT-registered fishing vessels (including maintenance and management of the registered vessel list);
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)