Areas of Focus


Few countries in the world are more important to the future of the global fisheries and the sustainability of global seafood supplies than Japan.


If you want to witness a display of marine abundance and diversity unrivaled nearly anywhere on planet earth head straight to the heart of Tokyo, grab your rubber boots and take a stroll through the cavernous Tsukiji fish market.

Tsukiji market stands at the center of a global seafood trade that reaches nearly every corner of the ocean, every fishing ground, and handles almost every conceivable seafood product, from wild Kamchatka sockeye salmon to giant tuna from the Mediterranean to Maine lobster. Few countries have a bigger influence on global seafood markets, international fishery issues, and overall ocean health than Japan. The freshest and highest quality seafood in Tsukiji still come from waters surrounding the Japanese archipelago, which hold some of the most productive fishing grounds on the planet. But domestic fisheries have been in decline for decades, a legacy of overfishing, degraded ecosystems, and negative socio-economic factors. More than half of Japanese fisheries are collapsed or over-fished according to the United Nations Fisheries and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO).

For the average Japanese consumer, this has meant higher prices at the market and increasing difficulties in enjoying traditional “washoku” food items. “Unagi” (eel), for example, saw a peak commercial catch of 232 metric tons in 1963 but that catch was reduced to a measly 5 tons in 2011. Meanwhile, the price of Unagi quadrupled in the last decade alone. For coastal communities and fishery cooperatives across Japan that have beared the brunt of the fishery crisis, the situation is even more severe; a whopping 800,000 Japanese jobs have been lost since the fishing industry’s peak in the 1960s.

Sustainable Fisheries in Japan

To learn more about the complex issues facing Japanese fisheries see our report titled "Opportunities for Sustainable Fisheries in Japan" which provides analysis and practical recommendations to restore ecosystems, fisheries, and coastal communities across the Japanese archipelago.

Japan Rapid Assessment Summaries

We conduct rapid assessments (see the Japanese fishery summaries here) of strategically important fishery species to better articulate the fisheries landscape and to clearly map out the potential for fishery improvement and third party certification of fisheries targeting these species. These assessments will help inform policy, management, funding, and the direction of sustainable seafood work across the globe.

Stories from the Field: Japan

Meet O2's Japan Program Director

As Japan Program Director at Ocean Outcomes (O2), Shunji leads the overall strategic development and coordination of O2's Japan Program. Based in Tokyo, he works closely in cooperation with Japanese fishery communities, seafood supply chain stakeholders, and other NGOs to ensure prosperity of both aquatic ecosystems and local fishing communities alike. Shunji's background in the fly-fishing industry and outdoor industry such as Patagonia Japan has contributed to his passion for leveraging business as a vehicle for positive impacts on the water. He received his BS in physical geography at San Francisco State University, focusing on watershed restoration and salmon habitat assessments. He also holds an AA degree in business administration from Golden West College. Aside from his love of fly-fishing, Shunji is always seeking intercultural experiences that broadens his understanding of the world and himself.