How can tuna be saved?

by josie on November 10, 2017 - 5:22pm

The Pacific Bluefin Tuna (PBT) has been designated as a vulnerable level of endangerment since 2014. The biggest reason for the decreasing population of PBT is overfishing. PBT is a popular type of tuna in many countries; for example, Japan is the country that fishes PBT the most, accounting for more than a half of the total global catch. Excessive PBT fishing in the country has led in catching juvenile PBT that have not spawned yet due to shortage of adult PBT and easiness of catch. As a result, PBT population has decreased, especially the population of those that can reproduce. In order to protect PBT from the risk of extinction, many international organizations, such as The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), aim to set specific goals to increase the PBT population at global levels. One recent goal set by WCPFC is to halve the catch of juvenile PBT by 2020 from the average caught between 2002 and 2004. To achieve this goal, the Japan Fisheries Agency (JFA) has tried to restrict the catch by using regulatory policies. I will analyze in this blog post how JFA uses regulatory instruments for PBT protection, and how and why economic instruments should be used in this situation.

Regulatory instruments are usually used by governments to prohibit types of behaviours or to require governmental permission for doing specified activities. These instruments are highly effective because they are accompanied by penalties for violating the legislation. In 2015, JFA, under the government of Japan, has used regulatory instruments for Japanese fisheries to change the voluntary limit to a regulatory limit for the amount of catch of immature PBT. JFA had set the voluntary limitation for PBT catch on a regional basis, but a government survey conducted after about six months revealed that about ten out of thirty-nine prefectures violated the limit. Therefore, starting from April 2017, JFA decided to impose penalties for those who overfish the PBT, including fines and imprisonment. JFA is seeking to achieve responsibility of resource management through immediate action and to not lose reliability at the global stage. Also, this stricter regulatory limitation with tangible penalties enables fisheries to be aware of regulation against PBT fishing. A weakness of this regulatory instrument is that this limitation is less attractive and beneficial for fisheries. Even though immediate action is needed for long-term benefit for PBT market and sustainability of PBT population, economic instruments should also be taken at the same time to increase fishermen’s willingness to follow the limitation.

Economic instruments are used to attract consumers and resource users by imposing taxes or subsidies, such as providing the subsidies for prefectures which do not overfish and imposing taxes to those which fail to achieve the goal. The current limitation does not refer to the use of fines, but if the government imposes taxes, collected money can be used for conserving the PBT environment. Therefore, using both regulatory and economic instruments simultaneously will enhance the compliance of the governmental limitation of PBT. Before seeking short-term economic benefits of catching juvenile PBT, it is important to set priorities on protecting the endangered species and sustainability for long-term economic, environmental, and social benefits.




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