Finalist, Seafood Champion Awards Vision Category

Fishermen in a groupWhile the Japanese government and large-scale industrial fleets refuse to abandon the unsustainable practice of targeting breeding tuna during spawning season, the Iki Tuna Network, a small group of fishers on Iki Island, have recognized the importance of making a sacrifice today to protect the resource that their futures depend on.

Maguru-harborTheir unprecedented voluntary suspension of catching spawning Bluefin for three years during the spawning season is being publicized in Japanese major media and is serving to encourage and energize other regional fisheries to take their own voluntary actions to protect ocean resources.
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The Iki Tuna Network has established pole and line fishermen network to promote sustainable management of tuna fishery, especially in Pacific Bluefin Tuna fishery in Japan. Iki is an island located in the Nagasaki prefecture, where it records high catch volume of Pacific Bluefin Tuna followed by Tottori, and Aomori prefecture. The small coastal fisheries like Iki Tuna Network have been facing uphill battle over harvesting Pacific Bluefin Tuna against large-scale industrial fleets dominated by large seafood trading companies such as Nissui. The fishery village of Iki Tuna Network is located near the large spawning grounds of Bluefin tuna, and 40% of their catch represented Bluefin tuna. However, the production of Bluefin tuna drastically reduced by 82%, and only recorded 67 metric tons in 2013 in contrast with the highest production in 2003.
Historically, due to the dependence on livelihood on ocean, fishermen at Iki-Island have been deeply ingrained in the philosophy of sharing resources. They banned using any nets for fishing in the 1950s and have used only fishing pole to catch Bluefin to maintain the sustainability. Recent decline in catch motivated the fishermen to work with Japanese renowned scientist, Dr. Toshio Katsukawa, to conduct monitoring of Bluefin stock assessment.

In 2015, Iki Tuna Network is taking a decisive step to implement the unprecedented voluntarily suspension of catching spawning Bluefin for three years during the spawning season from June to August, along with reduction of juvenile catch by 50% that the government introduced last year. In the absence of rigorous national catch limit on juvenile , their new step represents a remarkable event in recent years that create a change in Japanese culture by opening the notion that evolution of fishery practices and management for Bluefin will be inevitable.

Maguru meeting in homeIki Tuna Network actively posts news and voices of fishermen on Japanese major media and are growing their support base outside of the organization. They exchanged opinions with pole-and-line fishery cooperatives at significant landing port of Bluefin in Japan to discuss coherent measurements to recover Pacific Bluefin tuna population. To produce sustainable seafood from producers to consumers, they work with the restaurant owner to deliver sustainable pole-and-line tuna through restaurant. While these are small scale for now, the impact of change is promising for a country to improve societal salience of fishery reform.

What local and/or international partners does Iki Tuna Network work with?

Iki Tuna Network works together with trolling tuna fishery in Tsushima Island in the same marine areas at the Sea of Japan to scale the outcomes generated by implementing voluntary suspension of catching Bluefin spawner. Iki Tuna Network provides speaking engagements at the regional Pacific Bluefin symposium in Tokyo to raise public awareness about overfishing practices by collaborating with Mr. Ayumu Katano, a seafood champion for advocacy in 2015 and Dr. Toshio Katsukawa. Junko Owada, a committee member of GIAHS sponsored by FAO, proposed the nomination of Iki Tuna Network for Outstanding Universal Value for cultural and natural heritage.

How well does Iki Tuna Network demonstrate the qualities of the category?

Iki Tuna Nework is iconic coastal pole-and-line fishery which is well positioned to produce internal pressure domestically to the government by implementing rigorous enforcement and regulations to recover overharvested population of Pacific Bluefin tuna. Their recent voluntary ban of catching spawning Tuna will encourage other coastal fisheries, such as set net fishing, which have minimal negative impact on environment to improve their own sustainable fisheries methods. We believe Iki Tuna Network demonstrates great vision to advance political and societal dialogue about sustainable fishery and create domestic success story that is applicable and acceptable to other fisheries in Japan.

In what ways has the Iki Tuna Network positively affected, or mitigated negative impacts of, the seafood industry?

Large meetingBy voluntarily implementing a ban on Bluefin tuna harvest, the Iki Tuna Network will suffer drastic reduction of income. However, they believe that the recent government catch limit to reduce juvenile catch is not enough to build the stock of overfished Bluefin Tuna since it neglects targeting limitation on spawning Tuna. Their preemptive action against government catch limit is a strong statement of self-sacrifice to sway the government to improve efficacy of enforcement and regulation.

In what way do you feel Iki Tuna Network’s story could inspire others and communicate successes achieved in sustainable seafood?

Iki Tuna Network’s vision for the future is to develop domestic political dialogue for setting clear objectives to manage sustainable fisheries in accordance with recommendations from the WCPFC. Pacific Bluefin tuna is highly migratory species which makes sustainable management difficult and require regional collaboration to scale the movement. Their preemptive action against the catch limit set by the government will serve as a demonstration project to promote successful regional fishermen story and information that can influence behavior across seafood supply in Japan. They will be a precedent to energize other fisheries to positively change the behavior.

How would the work serve as a replicable model for others who want to have a similar impact?

The actions of the Iki Tuna Netowrk push the sustainable dialogue of Bluefin tuna with Japanese policy makers and the public to discuss improvement of sustainable fishing management and economic stability of fishery village with a scientific foundation. They are confident that they will verify the positive outcomes of stock recovery after the voluntary harvest control alongside the reduction of juvenile catch. They have shown dedication to influence other regional coastal fisheries and public to act transparently with a scientific foundation.

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