Japan to exceed bluefin tuna quota amid warnings of commercial extinction

by samgoldhawk on November 10, 2017 - 10:32pm

This article, published in the Guardian, reports on the current state of the bluefin tuna commercial fishing industry in Japan.  The bluefin tuna population has been in rapid decline in recent years due to commercial overfishing and is now facing historic lows for the past 30 years.  In 2015, the Japanese government and other members of the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission agreed to curtail catches of immature bluefin.  The main purpose of this news article is to draw media attention to the fact that Japanese fisheries have largely ignored the government’s attempts to curb overfishing of bluefin tuna, and are set to exceed annual fishing quotas two months ahead of schedule.  The Global Tuna Conservation is attempting to reverse the bluefins population decline and has implored the Japanese government to enforce their fishing quotas more strictly, as they are currently not punished for exceeding them.  With the threat of a possible 2-year commercial moratorium of catching bluefin, the Japanese government has acknowledged that it is time to crack down and begin punishing fishermen who violate catch quotas. 

My first reaction to this article is that Japan’s bluefin tuna industry has been severely mismanaged and current policies have effectively driven the fish towards population collapse.  In Down’s issue awareness cycle, the media coverage of bluefin tuna is currently in the realizing the costs of significant progress stage.  This is because it is not new information that the bluefin population is approaching a crisis, however, both industry and the public are reluctant to make necessary changes due to its importance both culturally and economically in Japan.  This lack of industry control and cooperation stems from a poor management approach by the Japanese government.  They have predominantly used voluntary instruments to try and curb overfishing practises.  However, this method has proven ineffective because it does not enforce its fishing regulations or penalize those that exceed their quotas.  In fact, the rising prices of bluefin tuna has provided fisheries with an economic incentive to continue overfishing if left unchecked.  In order to reverse this trend and save the bluefin tuna industry from collapse, the Japanese government needs to radically shift its approach towards a much stricter management style that uses regulatory instruments to combat over overfishing practises.  To accomplish this, they would need to improve their monitoring system and implement a punitive system to discourage fisheries from exceeding catch quotas going forward.   Another method that they can help promote sustainable fishing practises and which has previously been used to great effect in the fishing industry is certification.  Because it is a market-based industry, creating more public awareness through a certification program can help consumers drive sustainable fishing practises by only purchasing certified brands that guarantee sustainable fishing.  


McCurry, J. (2017). Japan to exceed bluefin tuna quota amid warnings of commercial extinction. The Guardian, Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/24/japan-criticised-exceed-bluefin-tuna-fishing-quota