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Fisheries Research Agency Develops Fishing Ground in South Indian Ocean

January 14, 2010

The Fisheries Research Agency has been conducting research to develop new fishing grounds for distressed far seas trawl fishing due to declines in fishing grounds. A research vessel docked back home in Sendai on Jan. 8 with a certain positive result.

Japan’s far seas trawlers, undergoing the diminishing fishing grounds, have been operating mainly out of the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain in the high seas of the Northern Pacific in recent years. In response to the UN resolution to prevent adverse effects on the fragile ecosystem by trawl fisheries in the high seas, a partial reduction of total allowable efforts in the waters of the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain is necessary.

The development of new fishing grounds entailed two conditions: new fishing grounds had to be available for the period of April to December, the main fishing season of the fishing ground of the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain; and midwater trawl fishing was required to not bring about an undesirable effect on the seafloor ecosystem.

The agency carried out a study for four months from mid August to mid December last year by a midwater trawler, Dai-Gojuhachi Fuji-Maru (401t), targeting the high seas of the western part of the South Indian Ocean. As a result, the trawler was able to catch about 1,200 tons of schools of fish, i.e. alfonsino, floating up in the water. It was judged that commercial fishing during the last part of the projected fishing season from April through December would be possible.

The agency commented: “Next year, we will again conduct another study at the same sea area for the first part of the projected fishing season from April to December, aiming to establish an alternative fishing ground to the waters of the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain.”

The original article was published on January 14, 2010 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka.

Japan Fish Traders Association Holds New Year’s Lecture

January 13, 2010

The Japan Fish Traders Association (Chairman Yuji Kobayashi, a director of Fisheries Business Department 1 of Nippon Suisan) held a New Year’s lecture and party in Tokyo on Jan. 8. Asahi Shinbun (Newspaper) Ishimaki Branch Office Chief Toru Takanarita, who is also known as a commentator for TV Asahi’s “News Station,” gave a lecture “You Can See the World Through Fish.” Roughly 140 industry related people attended.

Prior to the lecture, Chairman Kobayashi said, “It is estimated that last year’s seafood imports dropped 6-7 percent in quantity and 20 percent in money amount. Inventory reductions and restrained procurement are fostering a ground of a bad cycle. Innovative ideas that manage to encourage fish consumption are needed. From now on, on top of resources sustainability and environment preservation, attention to biodiversity becomes necessary in marine foods trading. Companies must resiliently respond to these changes.”

Mr. Takanarita: “Stories of Fish Should Be Told”

Mr. Takanarita, who worked as the Asahi Shinbun US chief correspondent and editorialist previously, talked about Japan-US relations and a relation between the rapidly growing Chinese economy and the fishing industry based on his experience from various point of view.

“Japan escaped the deflationary economy thanks to special procurements from the Korean War 60 years back. It is time to look at special procurements from the Asian market. The Chinese economy in particular is an engine of growth in the world and it is nonsense if you don’t cash in on Chinese middle class’ spending power,” he pointed out the fact that the Asian market would come indispensible for breaking out of the current recession.

Mr. Takanarita, who also carries episodes of various fish stories in a local newspaper, said, “I have written news articles about roughly 70 different fish species so far; it amazes me to know each fish species has its own unique stories. Telling stories of fish, which deeply originate from history and culture of every region of the country will help expand food culture and encourage fish consumption,” suggesting an idea for the future fishing industry development.

After the lecture, the Japan Fisheries Association chairman Toshiro Shirasu shared his speech and the Japan Frozen Foods Inspection Corporation Board Chairman Shigeharu Maeda gave a toast.

Picture 1: (left) Chairman Kobayashi and (right) Mr. Takanarita

The original article was published on January 13, 2010 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka.

Dept Director of National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations
Publishes Paper, Presenting Issue with Margin

January 13, 2010

The JF National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations department director, Takanori Ichimura, wrote a short collaborative paper with Shimonoseki City University Professor Eiji Hamada, titled “Why do fishermen take home only 24.7% of retail price? Further aggravated by decreasing fish prices at production sites, remaining high-fuel price, and deflation! Restructuring of organic division of labor by producers, distributors, and retailers!” (29 pages)

After shedding light on the reality that producers’ income has diminished since 2000 and that retailer’s margin has continued growing, the paper pinpoints that “Mass retailers’ control of distributions progressed; consequently, a right of pricing function has been transferred to retailers. Moreover, all-year consumption, standardization, and identical pricing of goods have deprived marine products sold at stores of their attraction; and a system that includes producing sites, distributions, and store departments, is showing institutional fatigue. It is high time to restructure new seafood distribution business with organic division of labor relations by producers, distributors, and retailers.”

In commemoration of the federation’s 1,000th newsletter, the originally published paper in 1997 was on a research of a margin percentage of marine foods based on the price comparison between seafood producing sites and consuming areas as well as a survey on seafood price formation at a distribution level. The just released, updated paper further surveyed margin rates since the original research and highlighted the current issue with fish prices. As for margins of producers, distributors, and retailers, for instance, in 1984 mackerel producers’ take-home income was 37.8 percent; distributors 33.7 percent; and retailers 26.9 percent. By 2002, this picture changed to fishermen 29.5 percent; distributors 24.4 percent; and retailers 45.15 percent. To sum up a margin percentage of overall marine products for 2008, fishermen took home 24.7 percent; distributors 36.8 percent; and retailers 38.5 percent.

Distributors are facing unavoidable cost increases due to charges made by retailers, such as storage fee and penalty for delayed arrival, and bearing miscellaneous expenses.

In addition to the decreasing margin percentage encountered by producers and distributors, the current trend of low price competitions is further creating an adverse effect on fish prices. With the added higher fuel costs, fisheries businesses have been pressured.

The paper also points out: “Though mass retailers say they render services to the public by offering low-priced commodities, this is just to switch the focus of argument. The issue lies in ‘fallacy of composition.’ Mass retailers as external diseconomies are asking fishermen to bear excess burden, so that they can survive harsh competitions. From this point on, it is essential to secure a persuasive retail margin in order to provide attractive marine foods.”

The original article was published on January 13, 2010 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka.

Norway Pelagic Holds Informal Meeting on Marketing Shishamo Smelt

January 25, 2010

The major shishamo smelt production company, Norway Pelagic AS, held an informal meeting to discuss the last year’s market trend with Japanese importers at the Norwegian Embassy in Japan on Jan. 21. Export amounts to Japan and prices for this year will be determined later on.

Sales & Marketing Director Jan Otto Hoddevik shared his view of the meeting: “Norwegian shishamo smelt were nowhere to be found in the Japanese market for over five years due to a fishing ban. Therefore, it is crucial to construct a sales structure with importers and processors in Japan. We reached an agreement on a product inspection method; I believe that we successfully established a cooperative framework.”

According to Mr. Hoddevik, 240,000 tons of shishamo smelt were harvested last year after six years of fishing ban. 150,7000 tons were consumed in Norway. 76,000 tons were processed for fishmeal and fish oil. A total import amount of frozen shishamo came to 132,000 tons, of which 103,000 tons were shipped to Europe and 27,000 tons to Asia.

12,101 tons were transported to Japan from Norway. Moreover, all the exported shishamo to China (11,235 tons) and Holland (3,923 tons) ended up in Japan. Resultantly, Japan imported the total of 27,259 tons of Norwegian shishamo. 20 percent of export amounts came to Japan.

Regarding last year’s consumption trend in Japan, he said, “In terms of export amounts, our goal was reached. There was a Japanese importer who said that demand for male shishamo was increasing. It was unexpected to me too that 12,000 tons of mix (a mix of male and female shishamo) were sold.” A domestic inventory amount of shishamo imported from various countries was 8,000 tons in January 2009 and an increasing amount of 14,000 tons was recorded in December, according to some Japanese importer. Mr. Hoddevik further emphasized: “It’s important that larger amounts will be shipped to Japan, so that the Japanese market won’t collapse.”

As for shishamo fisheries for this season, operations targeting both male and female will start around February 23 to 26; operations aiming for fish with an egg yield ratio of more than 15 percent will begin on March 3 to 5. Furthermore, Mr. Hoddevik referred to this year’s production forecast: “Stocks are in good condition. Though fishing quotas were reduced, we exchanged our herring fishing quota with Russian shishamo quota. So, a total production amount won’t change from last year.”

The original article was published on January 25, 2010 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka.

Japan Far Seas Purse Seine Fishing Association Chairman Says,
“Seeking For Policy to Make Purse Seiners Larger”

January 25, 2010

The Japan Far Seas Purse Seine Fishing Association Chairman Kazuo Shima said at the New Year’s press conference, “Construction of three large far seas purse seiners was approved; and we will continue to ask for the institutionalization of large purse seiners to the Fisheries Agency. The support of members has weakened towards the promotion of indigenization at island nations in the Pacific due to stably secured fishing and fishing quotas between two nations; yet, a trend of the time will make the indigenization unavoidable. We want to pave a road to the indigenization.”

2009 Catch Value Declines \10B to \29.5B

Chairman Shima commented on the last year’s results: “Far seas purse seiners reported 205,000 tons in catch and \29.5 billion in value for 2009. The 2008 results were 201,000 tons and \39.8 billion. There was no change in amount, however, value drastically plummeted. This can be attributed to the fact that prior to the Bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, bonito’s international price (Bangkok) became high, exceeding \200/kg . At the time, fuel price also skyrocketed. In 2009, fish price tumbled and simultaneously fuel price also slumped.”

As for a global trend of bonito/tuna fisheries, he said, “4.4 million tons of bonito/tuna have been caught worldwide; its quota limit has already been reached, of which the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) hauled 2.3 million tons. A comparison by fishing method in 1960 indicated 54 percent in longline fishery and 2 percent in purse seine fishery; in 2007, the ratio changed to 10 percent in longline and 78 percent in purse seine. Out of 2.3 million tons, a haul amount by country is Japan 450,000 tons; Philippines 380,000 tons; Indonesia 320,000 tons; Taiwan 270,000 tons; and PNG 220,000 tons. As indicated by this, we cannot go around Philippines and Indonesia for a discussion of bonito/tuna stocks. These countries are using a fix payao fishing technique, affecting migratory bonito heading north to Japan. Unless resources management by Philippines and Indonesia are conducted for sure, I am afraid bonito fisheries in the seas around Japan will fall along with Philippines and Indonesia.”

Resources Management and Urgent Action to Island Nations

About 250,000 tons Japan’s far seas purse seine fishing harvested, Mr. Shima said, “Bonito accounts for 85 percent, yellowfin 10 percent, and bigeye 2 percent [of 250,000 tons]. Fishing grounds of bonito are located around Japan, such as PNG and Solomon Islands; Hauls are quite stable, because far seas purse seine operations are covering all these waters. The preservation and management of bigeye tunas by the WCPFC for 2009 included 20 percent purse seine coverage and observer programme for 100 percent of fishing vessels. Japan will also follow a three-month ban of FADS and carry out operations that respond to a total volume preservation of catches.”

Regarding circumstances surrounding far seas purse seine fisheries, Chairman spoke: “the permitted number of vessels in the waters of PNA (Republic of Nauru and others) was set at 205; currently, there are 216 ships. This was because the number of US ships, which was once reduced to 17, again increased to 39. At the WCPFC conference last year, a Japanese representative expressed a concern over increases in the number of ships. Additionally, Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) will become mandatory and stricter reporting will be conducted, indicating more rigorous resources management. Japan’s far seas purse seine fishing industry must undertake the strengthening of the international competitive edge, the promotion of the indigenization, as well as a group formation (corporate marriages) as part of the streamlining of management.”

The original article was published on January 19, 2010 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka.

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