The world's bluefin tuna population has been declining for decades, and now Japan — a country that is notorious for overfishing — is acting to regulate at least some of its tuna fishing industry. The country's fisheries agency plans to institute oversight measures for fixed-net fishing practices in an attempt to curb the rapid drop-off in the bluefin tuna population, according to Nikkei Asian Review. This decision is a surprising one, because it comes after years of Japan rejecting such regulations.
The market for bluefin tuna in Japan is a competitive one, especially with the high level of demand in the country and abroad. One restaurant mogul in Japan, Kiyoshi Kimura, routinely pays hundreds of thousands of dollars for the coveted fish, whose population has declined by 97 percent since the 1960s, as previously reported.
Japan is responsible for consuming 80 percent of the worldwide bluefin catch, and has been criticized for not doing enough to rein in its over-fishing in order to help conserve the species. While it previously made attempts to lower the maximum catchable amount of tuna, Japan was one of several countries in a meeting last fall that failed to agree on measures to help the bluefin population recover, as The Guardian reported.
Now, Japan's fisheries agency has developed plans for new measures, including the institution of temporary fishing bans for particularly over-fished areas and set seasonal schedules for fishing regions across the country.
Another factor that is perhaps helping the bluefin cause is a growing popularity of meat in Japan. An aging population that has always favored seafood is eating less, and younger generations are apparently opting for beef with increasing frequency.
Update 6/3/16 1:50 p.m.: This post has been updated to more appropriately reflect the nature of Japan's actions.