Can Japan save the world’s most valuable fish?

Greenpeace releases first ever Responsible Seafood Guide in Japan

Feature story - 21 July, 2010
TOKYO: Japan is celebrating “Marine Season” (“Umi-No-Shun-Kan”) this week and it’s also the International Year of Biodiversity. What better way to mark the occasion here than to launch a campaign to protect the most threatened fish species? That’s exactly what Greenpeace Japan is doing by releasing a seafood ranking guide. The first of its kind, it includes 15 fish species which should be removed from Japanese shelves, including five different species of tuna.

Marine Season started with a public holiday on Monday this week called “Marine Day”, a day set aside “to appreciate the benefits of the sea, and to pray for the prosperity of this seafaring country, Japan.” But the future is not looking good for Japan’s fishing industry unless it stops catching the species most seriously at risk.

Fini, fish and fans

Greenpeace activists and volunteers, one dressed as "Fini the fish", hand out a seafood ranking guide to the public in front of the "12th Japan International Seafood & Technology Expo" at Tokyo Big Sight. © Greenpeace/Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert

Time to save tuna

Japan consumes 25 percent of the world’s tuna, including more than three-quarters of the remaining critically endangered bluefin tuna. With 80 percent of the world’s fish populations fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted -- we are urging Japanese consumers, retailers and restaurants to remove red-listed fish from their shopping lists, plates, shelves and freezers. Japan, with the most seafood consumption per-capita of any industrial nation, will host this year’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This meeting must be a crucial turning point for our oceans and fisheries which are in peril. Leaders need to declare more marine areas as off-limits to fishing and industrial activities so that ocean health can be restored.

Pacific bluefin tuna is high on the Greenpeace Japan ‘red list’. It is fished using destructive purse-seining vessels in the Sea of Japan -- an area that is important both as a migratory route and a spawning ground. Its meat is highly prized and has lead to massive overfishing. We’re calling on the Japanese government to develop a management scheme for this species and ban industrial scale fishing in the spawning grounds and migration routes, which would protect the interests of the small-scale coastal fishermen as well as help save the tuna. By doing this, Japan can set a good example of responsible fisheries management to the other East Asian fishing nations.

Greenpeace activists hit the streets in Japan today to educate the public about the crisis facing our oceans and what they can do to help: support stores that source from sustainable sources, refuse to buy species on Greenpeace’s ‘red list,’ and call for improved labeling of seafood products to show how and where fish is caught.

First of a kind

The seafood ranking guide, released during Japan's 'Marine Season' is also a fan - listing 15 species that need to be taken off Japan's supermarket shelves. © Greenpeace/Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert

Global crisis

The ongoing destructive fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna, which begins again this month, is only one example of how fishing industries and governments are failing our oceans. Overfishing has driven the bluefin to the brink of collapse in all the world’s oceans, and other tuna species will follow if urgent action to defend our oceans and protect the species is not taken immediately. It is now up to supermarkets, restaurant chains and consumers to take action because politicians across the world have failed to protect fish stocks for the future.

For several years 90 percent of the whole bluefin catch has been of juvenile fish less than one year old, taking this species to the verge of collapse. Earlier this year, we took action in the Mediterranean to demand the closure of the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery, to allow the species to recover to levels that would enable future fishing. The reality is that Japanese demand for bluefin is driving the species’ disappearance around the world. We have released seafood ranking guides in many different countries and they have helped to raise public awareness on overfishing and we have secured retailer commitments to source more sustainably-sourced seafood. Elsewhere, our pressure on retailers is helping to transform industries and end the overfishing crisis. It is important that this work now expands to Japan, where so much of the global seafood demand comes from and where political decisions about our oceans will happen later this year at the CBD.

Marine reserves - NOW

We are campaigning to establish a global network of marine reserves covering 40 percent of the world’s oceans: areas off-limits to fishing and other industrial activities. This network can help ensure a viable future for fishermen and in creating healthy oceans for generations to come.

As the host of the CBD this year, Japan has the opportunity to show leadership on oceans protection in priority areas including the bluefin tuna spawning grounds in the Sea of Japan, the Mediterranean Sea, and areas of the Pacific Ocean. We hope that Japan will choose this year to start defending the oceans and stop destroying them.


TAKE ACTION: We need to show Japan that there’s massive public support for marine reserves and healthy oceans. Call for marine reserves today.

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