TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Member states of the North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC) unanimously voted on a fishing limit for Pacific saury (Cololabis saira) on Thursday (July 18), passing the first international quota for the species.
The Fisheries Agency of Japan had proposed a total catch quota of 450,000 tons of Pacific saury on Tuesday (July 16). The eight member countries eventually agreed on a total limit of 556,250 tons, of which 330,000 tons are a combined quota allotted to Taiwan and China, the two largest saury-catching countries, reported NHK.
The agreed-upon limit is much higher than the previous year's total Pacific saury catches, which amounted to approximately 437,000 tons, making the limit more of a symbolic move than a practical constraint, according to NHK. It is believed that the Japanese government compromised so that at a first step could at least be made.
The limit will take effect next year. Individual quotas and enforcement measures are scheduled to be discussed further at the next commission of the NPFC.
The NPFC is committed to the management of high seas fisheries in the region and includes eight member states: Canada, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Taiwan, the U.S., and Vanuatu. The fifth commission took place in Tokyo from July 16 to 18.
Takashi Koya (神谷崇), head of the agency's resource management office, told the press that although the result is less than satisfactory, the situation is “moving towards a better direction.” Tsuneo Fukushima (福島庸夫), the director of canned seafood company Miyakan (ミヤカン), praised the decision as a “great leap” in the promotion of sustainable fisheries.
NHK had been pessimistic about the voting outcome, as China had at past commissions twice rejected any fishing limit. When asked China’s change in attitude, Koya replied that “perhaps even China begins to understand that this [overfishing] is not the way to go.”
Also known as mackerel pike and by its Japanese names, samma or saira (秋刀魚), Pacific saury is commonly eaten in East Asia and far eastern Russia. Over the past two decades, one-third of Pacific saury reserves have been depleted, recently dropping below 80 percent of the minimum level needed to sustain fisheries, according to NHK.
Striking a balance between different countries' fishing industries and allowing the fish's population to rebound remains a tough problem.