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Japan Urges 15% Cut In Pacific Bluefin Catches

Biggest tuna consumer makes proposal after population found to be decimated by overfishing

Japan has proposed that next year’s catches of Pacific bluefin tuna 3 years old and under be reduced by at least 15 percent from the annual average logged from 2002 to 2004 in an international effort to control tuna resources.

A resources assessment survey in July found that the population of Pacific bluefin over 3 years old, which are capable of laying eggs, had fallen to a near record low of 22,606 tons in 2010, apparently due to overfishing, sources said Saturday.

Japan’s catches account for more than 70 percent of all Pacific bluefin catches. As a major tuna consumer, Japan is hoping to take the lead in reinforcing international regulations on bluefin catches to help the population recover.

The international rules on Pacific bluefin catches are decided by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. A subcommittee of the commission will draft rules for next year when it meets in Fukuoka from Sept. 2 to 5. The full commission will adopt the new rules at an annual meeting in Australia in December.

Under current rules, member countries are required to reduce catches below the 2002-2004 average. The U.S. is seeking a 25 percent reduction from the average.

Japan also proposed terminating the exceptional measure that allows South Korea not to meet the requirement to reduce young bluefin tuna catches, the sources said. It also proposed introducing an emergency measure to immediately restrict members’ catches in case any further deterioration of resources is confirmed. It also asked each member to take countermeasures against fishermen who do not observe the catch reduction rules.

The Fisheries Agency will hold a gathering of domestic fishermen in Tokyo on Thursday to ask them to refrain from catching young Pacific bluefin tuna.