New tuna FIP announced at Tokyo Sustainable Seafood Symposium

Published on
November 21, 2017

Big news was made at the growing Tokyo Sustainable Seafood Symposium with the announcement of Japan’s first tuna-focused fishery improvement project.

The event, which took place in Tokyo on 27 October at the Belle Salle event hall in Shinjuku ward, was organized by Seafood Legacy Co., Ltd. and Nikkei Ecology, a monthly publication of Nikkei Business Publications (Nikkei BP). Sponsors included The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, as well as Seafood Legacy, a David and Lucile Packard Foundation-funded organization that forges partnerships between businesses and sustainable seafood NGOs. 

The all-day program featured a wide range of speakers and panelists, including conservation organizations, television and sports personalities, chefs, purchasing managers, representatives of retailers and seafood traders, corporate social responsibility officers of companies, academics and service providers. It was the third time for the symposium to be held. 

Shunji Murakami, Japan program director for the international NGO Ocean Outcomes, served as a facilitator for one of the panel discussions. He said that since the first symposium in 2015, the event has evolved.

 “The first year, most of the speakers were from overseas, but this year we had many Japanese,” Murakami said.

Murakami noted as especially significant the participation of Masanori Miyahara, president of the Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency, as showing that sustainability is becoming a higher priority to the government than in the past. Also, the participation of several retailers this year gives the prospect of developing the market for sustainable seafood, Murakami said. Partner companies included the Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union, Maruha Nichiro Corporation, Nippon Suisan Kaisha Ltd. and the Seiyu Ltd. (Seiyu is owned by Wal-Mart.)

In the future, he hopes for expanded involvement of seafood traders. As the next event will be just a little over a year before 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympics, there will be an opportunity to draw attention to the sustainability seafood procurement code set by the Organizing Committee of the Tokyo Olympic Games. 

Some of the many discussion themes at this year’s event were “Public-Private Seafood Solutions”;  “Leading the Market: Sustainable Procurement at AEON”; “Ocean Conservation and Sustainable Seafood from an SGD (UN Sustainable Development Goals) and ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) Standpoint”;  and “Traceability: Fighting IUU Fishing and Human Rights Issues in the Seafood Industry.”

Murakami had good news to share at the symposium: Ocean Outcome launched Japan’s first tuna fisheries improvement project (FIP) on 25 October. 

Nachi Katsuura port in Wakayama Prefecture is Japan’s largest port for fresh long-line and pole-and-line tuna landings in Japan. The Nachi Katsuura Longline Albacore Tuna FIP will cover 10,000 metric tons (MT) of albacore tuna caught in Japanese waters by the vessel No. 78 Kaiou Maru. Also collaborating in the project are seafood trader Yamasa Wakiguchi Co. Ltd. and supermarket Seiyu GK, along with Ocean Outcomes and Seafood Legacy.

The president of Yamasa Wakiguchi Tuna Company was a panelist at the symposium, speaking about the project and the need for improvement; and Kumie Wama, VP of Corporate Affairs at Seiyu was also a speaker. Seiyu will be selling FIP product caught and processed by project participants in 20 of their Tokyo-area stores starting in November this year. Seiyu is already cooperating in a Coho Salmon Aquaculture Improvement Project (AIP) this year.

“Support from an industry-leading retailer like Seiyu is vital to ensuring the Japanese sustainable seafood movement grows,” said Wakao Hanaoka, CEO of Seafood Legacy, which helped arrange the deal. “ Seiyu not only provides an important relationship for the fishery, but they also have the ability to raise awareness amongst consumers.” 

For the albacore tuna FIP, Ocean Outcomes completed an updated pre-assessment of the fishery which laid out opportunities for more sustainable practices including documenting retained species, developing a precautionary harvest approach, and monitoring of fishery interactions with seabirds and sea turtles by independent observers.

In 2012, a Marine Stewardship Council pre-assessment was conducted for tuna landed at Nachi Katsuura port. The current FIP updates that work with additional data and addresses the gaps that were previously identified. It includes chain-of-custody and traceability.

Though the current FIP includes only one vessel, it is considered to be scalable to the fleet.

 “Tuna is a primary pillar of the Japanese culture and economy,” Murakami said. “Though it’s a small start, it’s an iconic species and may have a big impact on awareness.”

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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