Sustainable use of tuna resources Action 3

OPRT surveys the actual state of production of tuna imported into Japan for the prevention of IUU/FOC fishing practices.

FOC vessels are flag of convenience vessels that are registered at non-member countries of the regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) and operate fishing ignoring the conservation and management measures of the RFMOs. IUU fishing is illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
If such vessels and fishing are not controlled, they hamper sustainable use of tuna resources. Such vessels had to be scrapped or normalized (registered in RFMO Members). The OPRT was established to implement a scrapping project for FOC vessels.
Currently, the RFMOs maintain a positive vessel list (a list of vessels registered at the RFMOs) as well as an IUU vessel list (a list of vessels which conducted IUU fishing). For bluefin tuna, southern bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna and swordfish, import of tunas caught by vessels not in the positive list are prohibited. Import, landing, transhipping and other activities are prohibited for tunas caught by IUU vessels. All the OPRT registered vessels are found in the positive lists.
Japan is the largest sashimi tuna market in the world. To check the accuracy of the species in the import application, the OPRT conducts DNA testing of imported tunas in cooperation with relevant organizations under a project delegated by the Fisheries Agency of Japan.

You want to know more about the positive list?

It is a list of fishing vessels that are officially registered at each RFMO and operate fishing in accordance with international rules on tuna fishing. The list includes not only fishing vessels but also carrier vessels. Some RFMOs also have a list of authorized tuna farms.

Vessels fishing for tuna are required to operate in compliance with the rules of the RFMOs. To evade the rules, however, IUU fishing conducted by FOC vessels became rampant in the late 1990’s. In an effort to eliminate such vessels, the positive list scheme was designed.

In an attempt to combat IUU vessels, work was first conducted to create a list of vessels not complying with the rules. The list of such vessels was called a "black list" or "negative list." However, such vessels often changed their flags and names and it was difficult to fully understand their actual state of affairs. Instead of the negative list, an idea was then conceived to create a list of vessels complying with the rules ("positive list") and control the fishing operations of the vessels not on the positive List. The idea was first adopted by the ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna) at its meeting in November 2002, and other regional fisheries management organizations then followed suit. Upon the introduction of a positive list by the WCPFC, which was established in 2004, al the five tuna RFMOs now have the positive list.

The member states of the RFMOs will register the tuna fishing vessels they have recognized as the vessels complying with the rules with their respective RFMOs. Tuna fishing vessels (24 meters or more in overall length for the IATTC, IOTC and CCSBT and 20 meters for ICCAT) will be subject to the positive list scheme. The member states shall prohibit the fishing operation, transshipment, entry into port, and landing and trading of catches by the large-scale vessels not on the positive list with respect to bluefin tuna, southern bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna and swordfish.

For vessels not listed in the positive list, bluefin tuna, southern bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna and swordfish are covered. The import of all the tunas caught by vessels listed in the IUU vessel list, which is established separately from the positive list, are prohibited.

The positive list scheme shall be implemented by the member states of the RFMOs for their respective ocean areas. The EU started regulating port call and landing by vessels not listed in the positive list in January 2010 under its IUU Regulations. The United State started in January 2018 monitoring the record of transactions between the catch and market under the US Seafood Import Monitoring Program.

Tuna farming started for southern bluefin tuna in Australia in the early 1990’s. After that tuna farming rapidly expanded in the Mediterranean, increasing the supply of farmed tuna. Their actual state of affairs was increasingly unclear. It was also true that tuna farming operations outside the framework of the RFMOs were expanding. Despite the efforts to ensure the effective conservation and management and sustainable use of tuna resources worldwide, such an unclear exploitation of resources would undermine the effectiveness of resource conservation and management. In this context, ICCAT started in 2004 the positive listing of tuna farms in order to monitor their actual conditions. The CCSBT also started the same system in 2009. Only tunas farmed in listed farms can be internationally traded.

The total allowable catch (TAC) and national allocations are introduced for many tuna species in many RFMOs. The RFMO introduced a requirement to register each vessel’s own identification number (an IMO number) for transparency of fishing activities of registered vessels including movement of fishing vessels between RFMOs, flag states and owners. Other mandatory measures include periodical catch reporting, installment of a vessel monitoring device onboard each vessel to monitor the location of the vessel, a scheme for monitoring at-sea transhipment of tunas from long line fishing vessels to carriers (placement of observers onboard carriers), port inspection of fishing vessels and carriers by port state authorities. The WCPFC introduced an international high-seas boarding and inspection scheme by which inspection vessels flagged to WCPFC Members are allowed to inspect vessels flagged to other Members in the high seas.