Jiji PressTOKYO (Jiji Press) — Japan and seven other Pacific economies on Thursday agreed to introduce an annual cap of about 550,000 tons on saury catches in the northern Pacific in 2020.
The ceiling, set after years of poor catches by Japan, is the first international saury fishing regulation. But it is uncertain whether saury stocks will recover because the cap far exceeds last year’s catches totaling 440,000 tons.
The eight economies reached the agreement at a three-day annual meeting of the North Pacific Fisheries Commission in Tokyo that closed Thursday night. Their respective catch quotas in the high seas will be discussed next year.
China, which has been increasing saury catches rapidly in recent years, initially opposed a Japanese proposal to limit annual catches to around 450,000 tons, informed sources said.
But China changed course after Japan accepted a higher limit, according to the sources.
“We are not fully satisfied, but nothing moves ahead without an agreement. This is just a passing point,” Takashi Koya, head of the Fisheries Agency’s Resources Management Department, told a press conference after the meeting.
Japan will try to lower the ceiling when the NPFC discusses member-by-member quotas next year, he said.
The NPFC also includes Taiwan, South Korea, Russia, Vanuatu, the United States and Canada.
The member economies agreed on a saury catch quota of 330,000 tons for fishing in the high seas, where large fishing vessels from China and Taiwan are active.
The remaining 220,000 tons will be allocated to fishing in the exclusive economic zones of the eight NPFC members, more than double last year’s catches.
At a meeting of the NPFC Scientific Committee in April, the eight members agreed for the first time that saury stocks in the northern Pacific are at low levels.
The agreement was taken to indicate the softening of the stance of China, which had previously insisted that saury stocks were sufficient. This raised expectations for a near-term deal on a saury catch cap.
Japan’s annual saury catches will stay around 100,000 tons from 2015, down sharply from the 1958 peak of around 580,000 tons.
The decline is believed to reflect huge amounts of high-sea fishing by China and Taiwan before the fish migrates to Japan’s EEZ in summer and autumn. China’s saury catches totaled some 90,000 tons last year.Speech