How Japanese fisheries learned to farm

The fisheries industry may still provoke images of trawlers setting out to sea. But for big Japanese fish companies, those days are long gone. Over the past 40-plus years, they have adapted to changing regulations and a shrinking domestic market. In their latest transformation, they have become growers of bluefin tuna — not catchers.

The shift was prompted by ever-stricter international regulations designed to keep stocks of bluefin tuna from shrinking further. The Pacific bluefin population in 2012 was 80% smaller than in its peak year of 1960. The fish has been designated as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, a body that regulates waters around Japan, has set a goal of restoring the population of adult Pacific bluefin tuna to 43,000 tons by 2024, a 60% improvement from 2012. In Japan, the practice of catching wild Pacific bluefin tuna fry and setting up a fish farm to raise them is restricted.

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About the author

Jessica Hathaway

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 13 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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