Kesennuma is the largest blue shark and swordfish fishery in Japan Photo: Seafood LegacyKesennuma is the largest blue shark and swordfish fishery in Japan Photo: Seafood Legacy

Japan’s first blue shark and swordfish fishery improvement programme has launched.

The participants are Seafood Legacy, Kesennuma Distant-Water Fisheries Cooperative, the Miyagi Offshore Tuna Fisheries Association and the Resource Economics and Policy Group at Iwate University.

Kesennuma represents the largest catch of fresh swordfish in Japan, landing 73% of the total catch in 2019. It is also the largest place of production of blue shark, whose meat is used for surimi. The fishery operates year-round in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, landing 1,323 tonnes of swordfish and 3,706 tonnes of blue shark last year. Twelve vessels from the offshore longline tuna fleet landing catch at Kesennuma port will participate in the FIP.

Swordfish and blue shark are not deemed overfished although there is focus from fisheries on more sustainability and transparent fishing of shark, which is the Kesennuma Cooperative’s main catch target. In order to demonstrate this commitment, the FIP is aiming to achieve MSC certification in 2026.

The FIP seeks to address issues identified in the MSC pre-assessment conducted by SCS and will focus on encouraging stakeholders such as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to determine policies, management standards and catch control rules, and the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean to evaluate scientific management methods.

The FIP will also seek to improve the quality of information such as catch records and environmental impact, improving data collection and demonstrating that the fishery is not involved in shark finning.

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