Overfishing in Japan
Imagine going to dine at your favorite restaurant and ordering seared tuna steaks. In 27 years, this may no longer be possible. Many scientists believe that all of the species of fish may become extinct by the year 2048. Overfishing is creating many problems throughout the world not only from an environmental standpoint by depleting the oceans of certain fish and destroying the food chain and ocean ecosystems, but it’s also causing economic problems by taking away some people’s livelihoods. According to Nutall (2005, Japan is the world’s biggest consumer of fish. The Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo is an amazing worldwide market of sea life. Japan’s desire for fish exceeds all other countries in the world.
Not only does Japanese overfishing pose a problem for other countries, but also for fish stocks as a whole. Day after day, tens of thousands of marine life are taken from the rocks and reefs of the ocean floor and scooped into large Japanese factory ships that work 24 hours a day. They catch a wide variety of fish, including tiny translucent squid, salmon, octopus, and crates of oysters, clams and mollusks. The fish are then auctioned off early every morning in the fish markets (Nutall, 2005).
Japan is the number one consumer of tuna in the world. Japan consumes more than half of the world’s catch of at-risk Atlantic tuna. Atlantic blue fin tuna, which is used for high end sushi and sashimi, is extremely overfished. This has caused the spawning stock of southern blue fin tuna to drop 90% in the Indian Ocean. Some species of tuna, such as the Australian blue fin, go for as much as $15,000 each. This money-making business has influenced Japanese fisheries to ignore the laws and boundaries set by the government of Australia and illegally fish their waters. Japan has made fortunes doing this.
About 20,000 dolphins are killed each year off the coast of Japan. In small fishing villages it is a great honor to hunt dolphins and whales. Many of the fisheries In Japan catch and sell dolphins around the world. Young female dolphins can go for as much as $240,000 each. Fisheries in Japan catch the dolphins on their migratory routes, where they scare the dolphins to shore by loud vibrations from motors and large pipes in the water. Once they are on shore, they net and slaughter them. Those they don’t sell are thrown back dead, into the ocean. With the loss of their habitat, and the disappearance of a great majority of the ocean’s main predators, Japan is not only changing the balance of the ocean, but is also changing the evolutionary process of these species. This forces cycles of premature reproduction and contributes to the decline in size of the average fish. As the biggest predators disappear, the smaller fish that the larger fish have always lived off, like sardines, squid, pollock, mackerel, and anchovies increase. Currently tons of these small fish are being captured and supplied to fish farms. This in turn takes more fish from the ocean, devastating it even more. Also, many of these smaller fish are killed by commercial fishing vessels that accidently catch them while fishing for the larger predators, causing them to go to waste, which affects other fish in the ecosystem that eat them. Many shellfish are scraped off the bottom of the ocean floor and killed as well (Campaign Against Overfishing, 2009).
The web article titled, Campaign Against Overfishing (2009), states that marine scientists and conservationists are asking increasing questions about how long Japan can keep up this consumption of sea life, and how much longer it can be accepted as a cultural need. This constant overfishing and devastation of ecosystems is destroying fish stocks. Japan’s fishing alone is not to blame for all of the overfishing problems; it is also created by other nations whose fishing fleets are supplying Japan with all this sea life, particularly the prized tuna.