Skip to main content

Japanese bluefin tuna fishery now certified as sustainable

A Japanese longline bluefin tuna fishery, Usufuku Honten Co. Ltd, has formally become the first in the world to achieve certification to the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) global standard for sustainable fishing, and is the seventh MSC certified fishery based in Japan.  

Usufuku Honten Co. Ltd has been independently assessed to the MSC Fisheries Standard, a science based sustainability standard for wild-caught fish which is set by the MSC in collaboration with marine scientists and the fishing industry.  

The family-owned business wanted to aim for MSC certification as a way to involve other fisheries in the Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture in rebuilding a more rigorous fishing management system locally after it was badly damaged in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.  

Usufuku Honten Co. Ltd sought MSC certification both to get recognition for sustainable fishing and because the assessment includes checks that show it does not have illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, setting their business apart from others in the industry.   

The fishery uses tamperproof e-tags with unique serial numbers which are attached to each bluefin tuna, making them fully traceable. Daily catch is verified via electronic records sent from the boat to the Japan Fishery Agency as well as ICCAT, the regional fisheries management agency that manages all Atlantic tunas. 

Certification of a small fleet within a fishery can leverage much bigger changes. Usufuku Honten’s certification is supported by the Japan Fisheries Agency - a government body– which will help to make wider improvements to the management of bluefin tuna stocks.  

Mr. Sotaro Usui, president of Usufuku Honten, said:  
“We are extremely proud to be the first MSC certified longline bluefin tuna fishery in the world. It means our long-time efforts on bluefin tuna stock management is recognized following the rigorous assessment. Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna whose stock used to be in decline has been recovering thanks to compliance of strict stock management. We aim to contribute to expanding sustainable fisheries by providing our traceable fishes. We’ve committed to raising awareness and understanding of fishery resources and leaving a legacy of Japanese traditional fishing and healthy bluefin tuna stocks for future generations to enjoy.” 

Kozo Ishii, MSC programme director Japan, said:  
“I extend my congratulations to the Usufuku Honten fishery, as it has made strong efforts to work towards sustainability. Since this is the first bluefin tuna certificate in the world, there was rigorous stakeholder engagement during the independent assessment process. The science-based, strict assessment considered and responded to those comments and underwent further rigour following an independent objections process. I hope the certificate will encourage more people to check the tuna they eat is sustainable.” 

In addition to pursuing sustainable tuna fishing, CEO of Usufuku Honten, Mr Sotaro Usui, is a representative of an organization that promotes locally caught fish in schools’ catering. The programme, set up by Japan’s Reconstruction Agency, aims to raise interest among school children in the local fishing industry. Its activities include cooking classes for parents and children and visits to the tuna fishing ships in Japan and overseas.