TOKYO, 03 AUGUST 2017 (JAPAN TIMES) — Japan has proposed imposing emergency restrictions on Pacific bluefin tuna catches if stocks of the species continue to fall, informed sources said.

Japan aims to have the proposal approved at a meeting of the Northern Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) set to start in Busan, South Korea, on 28 August.


The committee comprises 10 members including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, while the WCPFC has 26 members.

The Japanese proposal calls for automatically imposing strict restrictions on Pacific bluefin tuna catches if an annual assessment finds that there is over a 60 percent chance of the adult bluefin tuna population failing to recover from a target level.

Japan put forward a similar proposal at the previous WCPFC subcommittee meeting last summer, but no agreement was reached as some members opposed it.

The previous proposal called for restricting Pacific bluefin tuna catches for two years if the population of Pacific bluefin tuna less than one year old hits a record low for three years in a row.

Meanwhile, last week’s meeting of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission has been criticised by The Pew Charitable Trusts for failing to produce a plan to address overfishing of Pacific bluefin tuna, despite the fact that Japan and Mexico have already overrun their quotas for 2017.

The IATTC, composed of 21 member states and four cooperating non-members, is responsible for conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The 92nd Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission meeting took place in Mexico City, Mexico in late July.

Amanda Nickson, the director of global tuna conservation for The Pew Charitable Trusts, said if the commission doesn’t create and enact a bluefin recovery plan at its joint meeting with the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Busan, South Korea in late August, her group will push for a two-year, complete fishing moratorium or a trade ban on the species.

“Mexico and Japan, along will all the other countries with a stake in a healthy Pacific bluefin populations, have one final chance to reach agreement on a recovery plan,” Nickson said. “If the joint meeting of the IATTC and WCPFC in August doesn’t result in consensus on an effective, Pacific-wide rebuilding strategy, a total fishing moratorium or an international trade ban through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) need to be considered.”

So far in 2017, both Mexico and Japan have overrun their Pacific bluefin quotas, which stand at 3,500 metric tons for all IATTC members, according to Pew. Nickson said in addition to the rebuilding plan, Mexico and Japan must commit to reducing their future catch to make up for their quota overages.

“By overfishing its quota by more than 100 tons, Mexico threatens the recovery of this iconic species and joins Japan in irresponsible fishing of a severely depleted species. It is deeply concerning that the two countries with the highest catches of Pacific bluefin continue to fish over their agreed limits, while claiming to support its recovery,” Nickson said. “Mexico and Japan, along with the United States and all countries with a stake in a healthy Pacific bluefin fishery, must commit to a rebuilding plan that works.”

Nickson said her organisation was disappointed that at the IATTC meeting in Mexico, the commission could not even agree on whether it was appropriate to discuss a future recovery plan at the meeting itself.

“Pacific bluefin tuna continues to suffer because countries which benefit the most from the continued overfishing flaunted the international regulations,” Nickson said….PACNEWS [/restrict]