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.