Fishery Improvement Projects

Tokyo Bay Sea Perch FIP

Overview

Tokyo Bay is one of the leading commercial and recreational fishing regions in Japan for Japanese sea perch (Lateolabrax japonicus), a historically and culturally important fish used for edomae sushi, the style of sushi created during the late Edo-period (late 19th century) that influenced the nigiri sushi that is common today.

While archaeological sites show that species such as sea perch were consumed in the Tokyo Bay region as far back as 300 BC, commercial sea perch fishing in Tokyo Bay expanded during the Edo Period (1600-1850s) with new technology, gear, and techniques to match a growing demand. The present day mid-scale purse seine commercial sea perch fishery is permitted by the Chiba Prefecture government and the majority of the sea perch purse seine vessels fishing in Tokyo Bay are managed by the Funabashi Fisheries Cooperative. While fishing is permitted year-round, peak season is during the summer.

Purse seine vessels which are participants of the Tokyo Bay Sea Perch FIP are significant players in the region’s industry and account for 10-15% of the total Chiba Prefecture sea perch catch. These fishermen, led by FIP client company Kaiko Bussan, abide by voluntary conservation practices including setting non-fishing days during spawning season and limiting soak times. While the local fishery research agency in Chiba prefecture conducts stock evaluations, prefecture-wide science-based fishery management plans and objectives are lacking, which increases risk of overfishing and stock depletion. Specific deficiencies include the lack of harvest control rules used to reduce harvest when stock abundance is declining, and the lack of fishery reference points based on maximum sustainable yield (MSY) or other appropriate proxy. In addition, the formal decision making process is not very transparent and inclusive of stakeholders.

The Tokyo Bay Sea Perch FIP will increase the scientific understanding of the fishery, its effects and sea perch stocks, improve fish management practices, work to maintain overall sea perch stock abundance in Tokyo Bay, and distinguish the sea perch fishery in the growing sustainable seafood marketplace.

Key Conservation Concerns:

  • While sea perch catch in Chiba Prefecture has averaged around 2,000 metric tons annually in the last 20 years, the value of sea perch production declined significantly between 2006 and 2009 and hasn’t recovered (data from MAFF).
  • The number of people involved in the fishery is in decline, from almost 12,000 in 1993 to under 5,000 in 2013 (graph from Chiba Prefecture government).
  • Water quality and pollution issues, including harmful algal blooms and hypoxia “dead zones”, are potentially adversely impacting sea perch resources, as over 80% of the Tokyo Bay coastline has been developed for industrial and urban uses.
  • A lack of a comprehensive fishery management plan and science based management objectives risk overfishing and stock depletion; little scientific evidence exists to support sea perch stock status and inform fishing practices.

What We're Doing:

  • Conducted an MSC pre-assessment of the fishery in 2016, the first time that any component of the Japanese sea perch fishery has undergone pre-assessment against the MSC standard.
  • Development and implementation of a fishery improvement work plan to address deficiencies found during the MSC pre-assessment, including plans to better monitor and track bycatch of endangered, threatened, and protected (ETP) species, plans to establish a science based maximum sustainable yield (MSY) to ensure stocks aren’t overfished, and a commitment to work towards a more collaborative management plan.
  • Assessed fishery impacts on bottom habitat and ETP species, developed a system and process to sample/monitor sea perch catches, and evaluated existing—and recommended future—harvest strategies.
  • As part of the FIP Seiyu test marketed Tokyo Bay Sea Perch FIP product at four Kanto-region Seiyu supermarkets, and will gauge project expansion and potential FIP model replication based on test market results.
  • Developing a regional fishery engagement strategy, bringing together recreational and commercial fishermen—both purse-seine fishermen and trawlers—for the first time to develop and advocate for management objectives, a system for evaluation against those objectives, and strategy for prefecture-wide reform.

Project News and Additional Resources


Fishery Improvement Project Information:

FIP Status: Comprehensive FIP (tracked fully on FisheryProgress.org)
Project Launch: November 2016
Location: Tokyo Bay, Chiba Prefecture, Japan
Participants: Ocean Outcomes, Kaiko Bussan, Seafood Legacy
Species: Japanese sea perch (Lateolabrax japonicus)
Gear Type: mid-scale purse seine
Volume: 279 mt - Based on catch data from the Funabashi Fisheries Cooperative, UoA sea perch harvests averaged 436 mt per year from 2003 to 2014, while client (Kaiko Bussan) harvests averaged 279 mt per year from 2007 to 2014. The client catch therefore represents about 64% of UoA catch. Data taken from pre-assessment report.
Documents: Pre-assessment / Workplan

This FIP is tracked publically in its entirety on FisheryProgress.org, see the Tokyo Bay Sea Perch FIP profile here.

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