RAYMOND, Maine — Japan has the largest fishing industry in the world. The industry’s size and Japan’s dependence on its profits make it vulnerable to “overfishing.” As Japan struggles with overfishing while preserving its economy, its government and organizations like Ocean Outcomes are working to safeguard Japan’s fishing industry and maintain reliable jobs.
Struggles in Japan’s Fishing Industry
Japan’s fishing industry has faced several issues, the largest being overfishing. Overfishing results when fishermen catch fish faster than the fish can reproduce, leaving fewer fish available for fishermen to catch. Overfishing damages the ecosystems and can damage the livelihood of those reliant on the fishing industry.
The other prominent issue Japan’s fishing industry is facing is leftover damage from the 2011 earthquake that triggered the meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant. As the nuclear plant melted down, the waste contaminated water in the surrounding area and killed several tons of fish. All previously contaminated areas are now slowly reopening for public use since the waters are at healthy pH levels that will not harm fish and wildlife.
With Japan’s struggling fishing industry, the economy is in danger should the fishing ecosystems not recover.
Is the Fishing Industry Worth Its Size?
The fishing industry in Japan is worth $14 billion. People in Japan eat two-thirds of the fish, whereas the rest goes abroad through shipping and trading. Unfortunately, the number of fish caught between 1985 to 2017 has fallen from 12.8 million to 4.3 million tons. Despite the slight downward trend of produced fish in Japan, the industry has remained stable in employment numbers. There were more than 140,000 workers in Japan’s fishing industry as of 2019.
The average salary in Japan’s fishing industry is slightly more than $39,000 per year. The salary helps keep the poverty level manageable as it was last reported in 2020 at 15%. The wages differ depending on how long one has worked for the fishing industry, family size and location. Wages have remained stable as the fishing industry has struggled with its work and output since the late 1980s.
Aiding Japan’s Fishing Industry
One of the recommendations to tackle the overfishing issue facing Japan’s fishing industry came from the Marine Policy journal. The idea of reducing fishing in the short term is simple and could prove profitable in the future. Reducing fishing in the short term is an idea that the major fishing companies in Japan are taking seriously because even the short-term change maximizes profits within several decades. The fishing companies do not need to fear short-term reduction limiting and decreasing their earnings dramatically. Furthermore, reducing fishing in Japanese waters would allow the public to see the effect of the fully treated water and regain trust in the returned water’s impact on the ecosystems and environment.
Ocean Outcomes (OO) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping commercial fishing operations and local communities preserve natural life and keep operations running. OO is working with Seafood Legacy and UMITO Partners, two Japanese consulting firms that help to ensure fiscal stability and a robust Japanese economy while saving the fishing industry as much as possible.
OO and local fisheries’ efforts through the implementation of the Marine Policy’s suggestions can have significant implications for all parties involved. Reducing fishing in the short term will preserve ecosystems, jobs and wages in the long term. Reducing fishing in Japan’s fishing industry will eliminate overfishing, continue lowering the poverty rate with the saved wages and generate trust in the Japanese government and fishing industries to continue production and work.
– Clara Mulvihill