Remaining Challenges for the Future: The Act on Ensuring the Proper Domestic Distribution and Importation of Specified Aquatic Animals and Plants                 

Remaining Challenges for the Future: The Act on Ensuring the Proper Domestic Distribution and Importation of Specified Aquatic Animals and Plants                 

The Act on Ensuring the Proper Domestic Distribution and Importation of Specified Aquatic Animals and Plants (hereafter, the act) came into effect in December of 2022. Seafood Legacy Times previously received comments on the law’s enforcement from 10 people (here). This time, we received a contribution in response to these comments from Masanori Miyahara, advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, as well as the Founder/CEO of the “afc.masa” regarding the issues with the act going forward.

International cooperation is key for the import of seafood products

In regards to the Act on Ensuring the Proper Domestic Distribution and Importation of Specified Aquatic Animals and Plants (the act), Shuhei Uematsu of WWF Japan and Dr. Reiko Omoto of Tottori University, as well as other experts, spoke of their hopes that the act will be effectively enforced against IUU fishing.

The act has two main functions, one being the supervision of domestic fishing and the other supervision of imported fishery products, and these comments were mainly in reference to the latter. Recently, the problem of IUU fishing (illegal, unregulated, unreported) has gained international focus, with even the prominent US think tank Brookings Institution giving their recommendation to the Biden administration to receive cooperation from the other Quad nations (Japan, the US, Australia, and India) due to the serious threat IUU fishing poses to the world’s fishery resources.

One straightforward example is squid. In 2020, Global Fishing Watch (GFW) reported that there were over 900 ships in 2017 and over 700 in 2018 carrying out unreported Japanese flying squid fishing in North Korea’s territorial waters. It’s thought that these fishing vessels came from China, but many of them were what are called “Three No” vessels: No nationality, no registration, no permission. After this report, it seems the Chinese government arrested the substantial owners and operators and scrapped over 100 of these vessels.

However, GFW anticipates that many of these vessels have moved their fishing operation from North Korean waters to South America or the Indian Ocean, and their catches are even now being distributed in the seafood markets of Japan and other countries. Eliminating these products of IUU fishing from the market will require not just the cooperation of Quad countries, but that of China and in fact the entire world, and the act is an essential tool for such cooperation.

Increase in covered species and harsher punishment

Looking at Japan’s domestic market, we’re not only plagued with poaching of expensive fish species like abalones and sea cucumbers, but as catch limit regulations have expanded, more and more sales volumes of unreported fish, such as pacific bluefin tuna can’t be ignored. As set-net fishery representative Hiroshi Izumisawa, purse-seine fisherman Kazuhiko Ono of Kaiko Bussan, and Haruhiko Ito of Chuo Gyorui, a seafood wholesaler giant have pointed out, we must quickly consider an expansion of target species. In addition, we should look into using the act against fraudulent origin claims of species such as short-necked clams.

It is time to seriously consider expanding the act to cover domestically-caught species as needed, as well as implementing strict sanctions. We recently saw the companies in Oma prosecuted for illegal tuna fishing, but we must also consider the swift implementation of penalties on not only fishermen but the seafood buyers who purchase their products or knowingly distribute them in order to clamp down on the profiting of illegal tuna.

Traceability for consumers and human rights

As Satoshi Matsumoto of the Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union, Naoya Kakizoe of Marine Ecolabel Japan (MEL), Minako Iue of Sailors for the Sea Japan, Sotaro Usui of Usufuku Honten, and others pointed out, using the act to establish traceability that reaches consumers is a global issue. Additionally, as we heard from Minako Iue and Fumiyuki Shoji of Shokuryu, the inhumane working conditions of workers on fishing vessels is a major problem we should be looking into moving forward.

The act plays a vital role in dealing with IUU fishing in Japan and abroad. It should be implemented in an effective and timely manner, and promptly improved in areas where it is presently lacking.



Masanori Miyahara
Adviser to Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Japan
Founder/CEO, ”afc.masa”
After 37 years of work as a government officer of the Fisheries Agency of Japan, Masa Miyahara served as President of the Fishery Research and Education Agency for 7 years. He retired from the government in March 2021 and started consulting business. He experienced many international negotiations on fish resource conservation and fishery management. For the last twenty years, he served as the chair of many international conferences, in particular those of tuna regional fishery management organizations. At present, he is still the chair of the Northern Committee of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which is responsible for Pacific bluefin tuna conservation. He also worked hard in rescue activities and restoration efforts after the Eastern Japan Great Earthquake in 2011. Currently, he is engaged in consultations for dealing with various issues related to fisheries and seafood industries around Japan. His activities also involve international works through online meetings and the publication of joint reports.


Read comments about the enforcement of the act from the industry leaders >>>