Press release: Illegal seafood – new Japanese law means world’s three biggest markets say no

Date: December 4, 2020

Brussels, Belgium — 4 December, 2020

Today, Japan has made a milestone contribution to the international fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The government has passed a new law which, once developed and implemented, will prevent IUU-sourced seafood from entering the Japanese market. The law will help to bring Japan into alignment with the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA), marking a pivotal moment in international ocean governance as the world’s three largest seafood consumers all definitively bar products sourced by IUU fishing from their markets.

IUU fishing ignores both domestic and international regulations and is a huge threat to the sustainability of seafood resources and to conservation of marine ecosystems. It is a serious issue that needs to be addressed globally. The EU and US established similar controls to help protect their markets from imported IUU seafood, with the EU IUU Regulation in 2010 and the US Seafood Import Monitoring Program in 2018.

Marta Marrero Martin, Ocean Governance Director at The Nature Conservancy said, “This new legislation marks a historic moment in the global fight against IUU fishing. Japan joins the EU and the USA in sending a clear and strong message to illegal operators, who will now have great difficulty in finding an entry point for their illegal products in the world’s three largest seafood markets. As a member of the IUU Forum and the EU IUU Coalition of NGOs in Europe, we celebrate this milestone.”

The Anti-IUU Forum Japan (WWF-Japan, Seafood Legacy Co., Ltd., Sailors for the Sea Japan, The Nature Conservancy, EDF Japan and GR Japan K.K.) have welcomed the enactment of the new law – the Improvement of Domestic Trade of Specific Marine Animals and Plants Act – and released a joint statement proposing three key actions to take place before its implementation:

  1. Selecting species to be covered based on fair and clear standards
  2. Reducing the workload of operators and enhancing traceability through electronification
  3. Pushing international collaboration forward

Comments from members of the Anti-IUU Forum Japan:

The new framework will eliminate IUU fishing risks from Japanese seafood markets and allow operators doing the right things to be justly recognized. Together with strengthened seafood resource management starting this month under the revised Fisheries Act, it is a fundamental basis to transform fisheries industries into growing industries. I greatly appreciate and welcome how Japan, leveraging its buying power as a globally leading seafood market state, is making a large step to revitalize domestic fisheries industries and solve global issues. I am hoping that the three key actions toward the implementation of the new law, proposed in the joint statement, is going to show great progress from here.

—Wakao Hanaoka, CEO, Seafood Legacy

As a member of the committee on catch documentation schemes called by the Fisheries Agency of Japan, I participated in many discussions on the establishment of a new scheme over the past ten months. I would like to welcome the enactment of this new law to regulate international and domestic trade of seafood sourced by IUU fishing. Japan has great roles and responsibilities to end IUU fishing globally and pass on bountiful oceans for future generations. I would like to continue my support in the development of schemes in which Japan can ensure the elimination of IUU fishing from the production, importation, exportation and distribution of seafood, while collaborating with other countries.

—Yukihiro Misawa, Seafood Market Manager, WWF Japan

This legislation could be described as an anti-IUU fisheries law for Japan, the largest seafood consuming country after the EU and the US. We are extremely pleased and would like to welcome its enactment. The EU and the US, which are taking the lead in anti-IUU fishing frameworks, have high expectations for this new legislation. Global collaboration in developing the details of Japan’s framework prior to law implementation is being anticipated. Leading up to bill passage, Sailors for the Sea Japan has supported members of the Cabinet Regulatory Reform Promotion Council and the Anti-IUU Forum Japan by providing insight. We would like to continue our support to contribute to awareness raising among various stakeholdersfrom fishermen to consumersto enable fisheries industries to become growing industries and to realize sustainable seafood consumption.

—Minako Iue, President, Sailors for the Sea Japan

For further information:

Larissa Milo-Dale

EU IUU Coalition Communications Coordinator

+32 483 26 20 86

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