Taking a tough line on IUU seafood

Known as the Domestic Trade of Specific Marine Animals and Plants Act, the new law is seen as a significant contribution from Japan to the international fight against IUU fishing. This will help bring Japan into alignment with the EU and US, as the world's three largest seafood consumers work to definitively bar products sourced by IUU fishing.

‘When the new law takes effect and seafood products come into the Japanese market, catch certifications issued by the government will be required,’ said Wakao Hanaoka.

‘There are currently only four species that will come under Japanese import control – squid, sardines, mackerel and Pacific saury. We need to expand this list of species as a matter of urgency and include others that are at high risk of IUU fishing, such as tuna and eel. Japan is a major market for both of these.’

Chinese trawlers and jigging vessels with lighting rigs fleets anchored in December 2016 in Sadong port, Ulleung-do, South Korea due to bad weather in North Korean waters. Imag: © Ulleung-gun County Office

To close the net on IUU fishing, Jaeyoon Park says that stakeholders must strengthen their monitoring, control and surveillance measures in its efforts to wipe out illegal activity, and embracing fisheries transparency is a good starting point.

It will also be necessary to translate trusted, science-based information into enforcement and policy action, while political will and inter-governmental dialogue will both play critical roles in ensuring that such efforts are well-coordinated and long-lasting.

An approx. 20m wooden North Korean lighting vessel in the Russian EEZ. Image: © Seung-Ho Lee

Governments, seafood markets and enforcement agencies will also need to significantly increase efforts to strengthen co-operation, support greater transparency in fisheries and work towards establishing more coordinated and effective interventions in the fight against IUU fishing. Science, technology and international co-operation will all be central to achieving effective governance of the ocean.

Meanwhile in Japan, the government has revised its fisheries law in a major way for the first time in 70 years, said Wakao Hanaoka, and the country’s fishing industry is working to establish more stringent operations as it follows the new law. One important step for the industry will be to obtain the results of stock recovery by implementing new management.

Japan's new legislation is the first revision of fisheries law in 70 years. Image: Seafood Legacy

There are expectations that having this type of information will help the Japanese government strengthen its arguments during discussions on international fisheries management. Major retailers, restaurant chains, catering companies and other purchasers in Japan should also make it clear to the public that they do not purchase IUU-sourced seafood products.

‘The situation concerning IUU fishing is not over in Japan,’ Wakao Hanaoka said.

An abandoned North Korean boat, half-submerged in the Russian EEZ. Image: © Seung-Ho Lee

‘Since the end of last year, the Japanese media has been revealing many cases of seafood scandals,  including the under-reporting of Pacific bluefin tuna, the systemic smuggling of skipjack tuna at a major landing port, the mislabelling of asari (short-neck clams) with clams imported from China labelled as domestic produce, and the mislabelling of seaweed in the same way. Japan must now urgently tighten the management of seafood distribution and establish a domestic digital catch reporting system and digital traceability system.’

‘For now, however, we welcome the new law to regulate the domestic and international trade of seafood sourced by IUU fishing,’ he continued.

‘Japan has a huge role and responsibility to end this illegal practice and pass on a bountiful ocean to future generations. I plan to continue my support in the development of new schemes in which Japan can ensure the elimination of IUU fishing while collaborating with other countries.’