Seminar on countermeasures against IUU fishing: Discussions on matters such as consensus building
At a seminar held online by the Environmental Partnership Council on July 15th to abolish illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, discussions concerned which fish species to focus on via the Act on Ensuring the Proper Domestic Distribution and Importation of Specified Aquatic Animals and Plants. The Act regulating the distribution of marine products that are suspected of being of IUU origin is scheduled to come into effect by December next year (2022), and views such as, “We should aim to regulate all imported fish species”, “Regulation of domestic glass eel is necessary”, and “Consensus building among interested parties is a key issue.” were discussed.
Ryohei Nomoto, president of Haneda Ichiba Co.,Ltd. (in Ota Ward, Tokyo), which has its own distribution network and handles direct sales and retailing, explained the current situation in Japan from the standpoint of a fishery distributor. “Glass eels* that are considered to be poached, bluefin tuna with impossible (low) prices, as well as squid that are suspected to have come from areas around North Korea are being distributed.”
Yukiko Kuwata, an independent advisor to the environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) The Nature Conservancy, listed the future challenges of regulating the importation of catches that cannot be proven to be of legal (non-IUU) origin. “Since import restrictions are enforced by the U.S. & the European Union (EU), it is necessary to eliminate loopholes – for example, selling in Japan what can’t be sold in those other countries. If there are loopholes, then fishermen who operate responsibly (and legally) will be hurt.” She also stated, “In the United States, regulations were narrowly focused on certain fish species, but there have been reports of issues such as deception using fish species not covered by the regulations.”, and indicated the need to create a roadmap to cover all such species. Minako Iue, chairperson of Sailors for the Sea Japan (NGO), concurred, saying, “We want the aim to be coverage of all fish species. Europe already has covered all fish species, and a bill covering all fish species has been submitted in the United States.”
Taketo Ota, a reporter for this newspaper, took the stage and said, “Documents for imported goods are checked by customs and other authorities. The import regulations under the law can be implemented by increasing the number of documents to be verified. The law can be applied for many countries and fish species by creating IT systems and securing personnel to check the documents. This is expected to be less costly than the domestic product regulations under the law, which require monitoring the data of the entire fisheries industry, processing and distribution companies, etc.”
Kenzo Kaifu, a professor at Chuo University, analyzed the possibility of opposition to eel trade regulations from the eel farming industry, while showing calculations that a large number of glass eels* are illegally caught and distributed in Japan and abroad. “He said, “Eels fall within the standards of regulation of this law, such as the possibility of illegal and excessive harvesting,” and called for the Fisheries Agency to regulate the trade of various types of eels.
Ryota Terai, Assistant Director of the Processing and Distribution Division of the Fisheries Agency, stated, “We are having a hard time selecting species to be regulated under the law. There is a broad range of interested parties (stakeholders), and consensus building is a challenge. It is essential, through sufficient discussions, to get them to e.”
Problems of Harmful Subsidies – Accountability is Important
In recent years, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been discussing regulation of “harmful subsidies”, because of their leading to overfishing. This issue was also discussed at the seminar. When asked for his opinion, Mr. Ota emphasized, “There is a misconception that subsidies to improve fishing capacity are harmful; however, measures such as protecting the fish that have decreased in number due to global warming, while using subsidies to catch more fish which have been increasing in number, can be taken. If subsidies are based upon verification of resources available, and the profitability of fisheries, then fishing operations can be made sustainable. We need to have careful discussions on “how to subsidize fishing to make it sustainable”, not just categorically describe subsidies as harmful.”
On the other hand, he summarized as follows: “It is important for us to be accountable by being able to show, through objective verification, ’This assistance does not lead to overfishing’. It is crucial for the government to provide human resources and budgets for science, and also for fishermen to have an ear to listen to the “painful-to-hear“ science that details the overfishing. The industry may feel victimized by revisions of fishing regulations and subsidies, but we hope to create a positive atmosphere that essentially says, ‘This is for the benefit of future profits to fishermen themselves.’ ”
The name of the seminar was “SDG14 Stakeholders Meeting – Towards the Elimination of IUU Fishing, and Collaboration for Realizing Sustainable Fishing”. More than 70 people participated.