Original publication: August 2017
Authors: Matilde Vallerani, Carmen-Paz Martí, Priit Ojamaa
Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/2BFlvgL

The present note was requested by the Committee on Fisheries of the European Parliament for its Delegation to Japan (18-22 September 2017). The note provides a review of the main characteristics and specificities of Japan fisheries sector and related activities. It provides an overview of issues such as the legal and institutional framework, fisheries management, catches, the fishing fleet, fishing industry, trade, employment, the fish market and marine research.

 

Geographic overview and living marine resources

Japan is an island country located along the East Asian mainland, in front of Russia, North Korea, South Korea, China and Taiwan. It is surrounded by the Sea of Japan (to the west), the Sea of Okhotsk (to the north), the north-western Pacific Ocean (to the east), the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea (to the south; Figure 1). Japan has a total land area of 378 000 km² and more than 6000 islands. Four main islands constitute ca. 97% of Japan’s land area (from north to south): Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. In addition, there are numerous smaller islands. Most of them form the Ryukyu Islands (south-west from Kyushu to Taiwan), the largest of which is Okinawa, and the Izu and Bonin (Ogasawara) Islands (south of Tokyo). The body of water separating Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu is known as the Seto Inland Sea.

Japan is a predominantly temperate humid country with four distinct seasons, but the climate varies greatly from cool temperate in the north to subtropical in the south. Japan is mostly mountainous, with the highest peak of Mt Fuji reaching 3776 m. As more than 70% of the land is covered by mountains and forest, the habitable zones are mainly located in coastal areas and have high population densities.

 

Figure 1: Location and topography of Japan

Japan is an island country located along the East Asian mainland, in front of Russia, North Korea, South Korea, China and Taiwan. It is surrounded by the Sea of Japan (to the west), the Sea of Okhotsk (to the north), the north- western Pacific Ocean (to the east), the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea (to the south; Figure 1).

Japan is situated in a volcanic zone on the Pacific Ring of Fire. Frequent low intensity earth tremors and occasional volcanic activity are felt throughout the islands. Destructive earthquakes, often resulting in tsunamis, occur several times a century. The most recent major quake was the 2011 Tohoku event with a magnitude of 9.0, the highest ever recorded in Japan, known as “the Great East Japan Earthquake”.

Japan’s 12-nm territorial waters and 200-nm Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) cover an area of 4.47 million km², which is the sixth largest in the world and covers 12 times the area of Japan’s land (Figure 2). As regards territorial claims, Japan is involved in three island disputes with its neighbouring countries Korea, China/Taiwan, and Russia.

Figure 2: Japan's jurisdictional waters

Japan’s 12-nm territorial waters and 200-nm Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) cover an area of 4.47 million km², which is the sixth largest in the world and covers 12 times the area of Japan’s land.

The Japanese coastline is 29 751 km long. The continental shelf around the archipelago is 20 to 30 km wide, with the shelfbreak at an average depth of 140 meters. Continental shelves are broader in the Sea of Japan along the coast of south-western Honshu to Kyushu, and around northern Hokkaido (Figure 1). East of Honshu the seafloor morphology is marked by the 9000 m deep Japan Trench, created by the subduction of the oceanic Pacific plate beneath the continental Okhotsk plate.

Japan is surrounded by some of the world’s richest fishing grounds: the Northern Pacific, which includes Japan’s EEZ, accounts for almost 23% of the global fish production. Several factors promote a wide variety of marine resources in waters around Japan (Fisheries Agency 2011a):

  • The cold nutrient-rich current Oyashio flowing south collides with the warm current Kuroshio flowing north off the eastern coast of Japan, which creates a high productivity ecosystem (Figure 3).
  • A suitable habitat for bottom fish is provided by the relatively broad continental shelves along the coasts of Hokkaido, the Tohoku region (north-eastern Honshu) and the San’in region (south-western Honshu), down to a depth of ca. 200 m. Also, by the terraceshaped shallow areas of the Yamato Bank and the Musashi Bank in the Sea of Japan (Figure 3).
  • The East China Sea and many inner bays around Japan (such as Funka Bay in southern Hokkaido, Ise Bay in southern Honshu, Ariake Sea and Yatsushiro Sea, both in western Kyushu) provide good conditions for abundant fishery resources due to high amounts of nutrients supplied from land areas.

The diversity of fish and shellfish in Japan is such that more than 3300 fish species are found in its waters. No single species constitutes dominant catches, and 80% of Japan’s total catch volume is shared among 24 species (Figure 4). For a comparison, in Norway and in Iceland 5 and 6 species respectively account for 80% of the total catch volume (Fisheries Agency 2012b). Most of Japan’s fisheries production comes from its EEZ (offshore and coastal waters).

Figure 3: Ocean currents around Japan

The cold nutrient-rich current Oyashio flowing south collides with the warm current Kuroshio flowing north off the eastern coast of Japan, which creates a high productivity ecosystem. A suitable habitat for bottom fish is provided by the relatively broad continental shelves along the coasts of Hokkaido, the Tohoku region (north-eastern Honshu) and the San’in region (south- western Honshu), down to a depth of ca. 200 m. Also, by the terraceshaped shallow areas of the Yamato Bank and the Musashi Bank in the Sea of Japan.

Figure 4: The main species caught in fishing grounds around Japan

The diversity of fish and shellfish in Japan is such that more than 3300 fish species are found in its waters. No single species constitutes dominant catches, and 80% of Japan’s total catch volume is shared among 24 species.

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/601-995

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