Japan Plans to Halve the Number of Young Bluefin Tuna It Catches

Sushi might get more expensive, but tuna populations need the break

Photo: Fisherman

Earlier this week, Japan made a surprising announcement: the country plans to reduce the number of juvenile bluefin tuna it fishes from the north Pacific to 50 percent of hauls in the early 2000s, the Japan Times reports. The quota changes will go into effect starting next year, and Japan says it hopes other nations follow its lead in reducing catch numbers of young fish. Here's the Times:

Last December, an international conference involving Japan agreed to cut each nation’s quota for juvenile bluefin tuna, or fish aged 3 years or younger, in 2014 by more than 15 percent from the 2002-2004 average.

But Japanese researchers concluded that Tokyo’s goal of raising bluefin tuna stocks to about 50,000 tons will not be achieved even if each country reduces its catch quota by 15 to 25 percent.

Japan has stepped up to take the largest hit on fishing reductions. This might mean that sushi prices will increase, but the decision should be a boon for tuna populatins, which have hit record lows. A report that came out last year found that young fish make up 90 percent of Pacific bluetuna catches, Pew Environment says. These young fish are being caught before they've had time to mature and reproduce, the Times explains, and by drastically reducing their catch now, Japan hopes to ensure tuna will be around for years to come. 

Tuna holds a spot of honor in the country's culinary traditions. In January, Japan's annual first-of-the-year bluefin tuna sale fetched around $70,000 for a single fish, Pew reports. 

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