Possible lessons for the future

• How might we forecast the future of sardine populations?

As shown earlier, the increase in the recent catch of sardine has had an enormous impact on Japanese fisheries. Figure 14.21 indicates the production of large-quantity species such as Alaska pollock, sardine, and mackerel, and the total production from the

YEAR

Fig. 14.21 Total production from the sea, A, and production of large-quantity species, B, (bottom); and B as a percentage of A (top) by Japanese fisheries, 1951-88.

YEAR

Fig. 14.21 Total production from the sea, A, and production of large-quantity species, B, (bottom); and B as a percentage of A (top) by Japanese fisheries, 1951-88.

sea by Japanese fisheries; it also includes the proportion of the former to the latter, between 1951 and 1988. During this 38-year period, Japanese catches from the sea had increased threefold from 3.8 to 11.3 million mt. The increase, however, was achieved primarily through the increase in large-quantity species, especially Alaska pollock and sardine, which rose as a percentage of total catch from 31 to 64 percent. The catch of fish other than the large-quantity species remained unchanged from 4.07 to 4.05 million mt between 1961 and 1985. This shows that Japanese fisheries became more dependent on large-quantity species and, therefore, vulnerable to societal and environmental changes. If, at present, the stock of Far Eastern sardine starts declining quickly, the total catch of Japan's fisheries could possibly be reduced to as little as

7 million mt in about 10 years, down from 11.3 million mt in 1988. This would be similar to the years from 1936 to 1945, when the total catch decreased from 4.2 to 1.8 million mt.

To protect the fisheries and society from dislocations caused by a sudden decline in sardine landings and in order to try to mitigate its impacts, it is very important to know the future of the sardine stock as far ahead as possible. To this end, it is essential to raise the level of fisheries science and to continue to collect key data about fisheries and the global environment.

• How can we absorb the shock of sudden drops in sardine landings?

If the landings of sardine drop considerably in Japan, needless to say, Japanese society as well as its fisheries will be seriously adversely affected. In major sardine landing ports, such as Kushiro, Hachinohe, Ishinomaki, Choshi, and Sakai, many plants and facilities dependent on sardine landings would face economic hardships. Fish culture, especially of hamachi, would lose its supply of low-cost feed; clearly local, regional and national economic problems would ensue. Measures to cope with problems such as these must be sought in the event that the sardine population collapses once again.

Reorganization of the purse seine fisheries after World War II

As shown in Fig. 14.10, an abrupt decline in sardine catch began in the 1940s, after its peak at 1936 and 1937, but the degree of decrease in catch varied from region to region. The rate of decrease was higher in more peripheral regions of the range of sardine, which was centered on the area west of Kyushu where the sardine seemed to spawn and develop (Table 14.3). The big drop in sardine migration in the waters around northern Japan and the increase in the East China Sea caused a great change in the regional distribution of purse seine fisheries, the major target of which was the sardine.

An absolute shortage of food in Japan immediately after the end of World War II brought about a temporary prosperity of fisheries. As a result, the purse seine fisheries, which had been heavily damaged in wartime, recovered quickly. As seen in Table 14.4, as early

Table 14.3 Regional trend in sardine catch

Average annual catch (x 1,000 mt)

Statistical sub-area

between 1934-36

(B)

(%)

Around Hokkaido

368

14

3.8

Pacific side

North

396

17

4.2

Intermediate

295

63

21.4

South

79

46

59.0

Japan Sea side

North

335

28

8.5

West

39

20

51.3

East China Sea

155

227

146.5

Seto Inland Sea

47

54

115.2

TOTAL

1714

469

31.5

Pacific North: between Aomori and Ibaraki Intermediate: between Chiba and Mie South: between Wakayama and Miyazaki Japan Sea North: between Aomori and Ishikawa West: between Fukui and Yamaguchi Source: Ounabara, 1980

Table 14.4

Change in number of fishing units of purse seiners by tonnage categories

Table 14.4

Change in number of fishing units of purse seiners by tonnage categories

Year

smaller than 10 mt

10-20 mt

larger than 20 mt

Total

1939

629

537

125

1291

1947

805

470

112

1387

1950

1587

702

606

2895

Source: Institute for Fisheries Research, 1953a

Source: Institute for Fisheries Research, 1953a as 1947 the number of purse seiners exceeded what it had been in 1939, reaching about twice that number by 1950.

The number of purse seiners larger than 20 mt in 1950 had increased to four times as many as that in 1939, indicating that the average size of boats got larger (Table 14.4). Although the total number of purse seiners throughout Japan almost doubled between 1939 and 1949, when we look at the regional breakdowns, their numbers in statistical sub-areas (around Hokkaido, Japan Sea North and West) decreased, those in Pacific North remained nearly unchanged, but those in Pacific South and East China Sea increased markedly, strongly affected by the change in geographical distribution of the sardine (Table 14.5).

Table 14.5

Change in number of purse seiners by tonnage categories (regional breakdown)

Table 14.5

Change in number of purse seiners by tonnage categories (regional breakdown)

Statistical

Smaller than

Larger than

sub-area

Year

10 mt

10-20 mt

20 mt

Total

Around Hokkaido

1939

6

42

1

49

1949

0

2

-

2

Pacific

North

1939

16

160

95

271

1949

67

93

137

297

Intermediate

1939

154

125

28

307

1949

115

166

71

352

South

1939

151

16

-

167

1949

525

70

7

602

Japan Sea

North

1939

3

-

-

3

1949

-

1

1

2

West

1939

16

5

-

21

1949

-

3

1

4

East China Sea

1939

178

176

1

355

1949

237

73

266

626

Seto Inland Sea

1939

110

8

-

118

1949

200

1

73

274

TOTAL

1939

634

532

125

1291

1949

1194

484

451

2159

Source: Institute for Fisheries Research, 1953b

Source: Institute for Fisheries Research, 1953b

Another important issue relates to the reorganization of purse seine fisheries after World War II. Huge enterprises that had prevailed under national protection in the overseas and colonial fishing grounds in pre-war times, and had seldom competed with domestic intermediate and small fishery enterprises, came into direct conflict with these enterprises in coastal fishing grounds after World War II (as a result of restriction of their operating areas). In those days, each purse seiner was permitted to operate only within a small local area in accordance with fisheries regulations. Top-ranking ones among the intermediate and small enterprises as well as the huge enterprises demanded revisions of the fisheries regulations then in effect, so as to allow a purse seiner to fish unrestricted throughout the coastal areas around Japan. This demand was in conflict with the desires of the traditional, native intermediate or small enterprises, which tried to continue their fishing activities by rejecting newcomers, since their economic power was too small to compete with the huge enterprises of markets.

In 1951 the Japanese government's Fisheries Agency issued a new regulation for the purse seine fishery, which was to:

• change the system of fishing areas from regional to national, allowing any purse seiner to fish anywhere around Japan;

• permit the building of additional large-sized boats;

• permit purse seiners to operate at night in the East China Sea;

• establish closed areas along the coasts to protect native fisheries; and

• permit the building of new boats if smaller enterprises are managed jointly.

As shown in Fig. 14.22, more purse seiners were built in the statistical subarea Pacific North after World War II, with a peak in 1947. As the sardine stock declined there (Table 14.3), however, new shipbuilding declined rapidly. Measures to establish a financing system to assist the purse seine fishery in this area were discussed in the Japanese Diet at the end of 1948. The Fisheries Bill System for the purse seine fishery was established in January 1949. This led to the nationwide Fisheries Bill System six months later. The subareas of Japan Sea West and the East China Sea had their peaks of shipbuilding later in 1950, indicating that investment had continued until then (Fig. 14.22).

1930 35 40 45 47 49 51 year

Fig. 14.22 Regional differences in trends in fishing boat building. (Institute for Fisheries Research, 1953a.)

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