Press releases

Japan’s Usufuku Honten Bluefin Tuna Fishery enters MSC assessment

August 22, 2018

Usufuku Honten Co. Ltd., located in Kesen-numa, Miyagi Prefecture, has entered its bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) fishery for assessment against the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Fisheries Standard. An independent team of assessors from Control Union Pesca Ltd. will examine whether this fishery meets the Standard. The target of the assessment will be a single longline vessel, Dai-ichi Shofuku-maru, which caught 48 tonnes of bluefin tuna in 2017. 

This is the first bluefin tuna fishery in the world to undergo MSC assessment and will be measured against the same standard that every fishery in the MSC global program is assessed against. The MSC assessment process uses science and evidence, and solicits input from diverse stakeholders. No judgements are made about how sustainable a fishery is until it has completed the full assessment. 

Usufuku Honten was established in 1882 as a fish wholesaler and in the 1930s started fishing in the Japanese EEZ and on the high seas. Since the 1980s, the company has focused its fishing operation on the pelagic longline tuna fishery globally. The Dai-ichi Shofuku-maru operates in the Atlantic Ocean all year around and catches bluefin tuna in October and November. Family owned, Usufuku Honten is looking to the future and is closely involved with the rebuilding of the Kesen-numa and Tohoku fishing industry following damage cause by the 2011 tsunami.  

Mr. Soutaro Usui, President of Usufuku Honten says: “While bluefin tuna fishing has a long and chequered history, Usufuku recognises its responsibility to pass ocean resources on to the next generation. Atlantic Bluefin tuna resources were once drastically depleted; however, due to our active commitment to abide by the strict rules of ICCAT, the latest stock assessment shows a surprising recovery. On the other hand, there is still a lot of untraceable tuna in the Japanese market. We would like to get MSC certified to convey to consumers in Japan what real sustainable fish and sustainable fishing are. In doing so, we believe we can modify Japanese people’s values around seafood.” 

Kozo Ishii, Programme Director Japan for the MSC, said: “A full MSC assessment is a transparent and difficult process and I respect any fishery that puts themselves under this level of scrutiny. The demand for MSC certified seafood has dramatically increased in Japan as it has in western countries. Especially for tuna, the demand is growing in Japan’s sashimi market. In its MSC assessment, Usufuku Honten will be examined to see if they work sustainably, including the management system, the fishery’s impact on bluefin tuna stocks and on their marine habitats. If the fishery is MSC certified, they will help fill the gap in demand for sustainable bluefin tuna in our market and encourage the further spread of certified seafood in Japan.” 
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