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.

Japanese Fishery Improvement Projects:

Stories from the Field: Japan

Meet O2's Japan Program Director

Shunji leads the strategic development and implementation of O2’s Japan Program. He maintains strong relationships with Japanese fishery communities, seafood business, and key Japanese NGOs, working closely with these stakeholders to co-develop solutions that lead to improved fishing practices and improved fishery-based livelihoods. Responsible for the launch Japan's first ever FIP and AIP, he has pioneered the improvement model in Japan. He has served as a moderator and panelist on numerous domestic and international sustainable seafood forums such as the SeaWeb Seafood Summit, the Tokyo Sustainable Seafood Symposium, and the Japan fishery policy councils, among others. Prior to O2, Shunji led the Japan program for Wild Salmon Center where he worked with the Hokkaido government and local fisheries on chum salmon fisheries improvements. Other past positions include work for Patagonia Japan and freelance contributions to various fly fishing magazines, such as “Fly Fisher” and "Ecocolo" in Japan.