Japan’s fisheries budget reflects COVID and other challenges

The fiscal year 2022 budget released by the Fisheries Agency of Japan highlights the challenges facing the country’s seafood sector amid COVID-19.

The new budget includes significant increases to help stabilize fisheries management and promote a new resource management system, adds additional funds to stabilize fishing revenues, and adds fuel subsidies.

The budget for implementing fisheries management stability measures and promoting a new resource management system more than doubled to JPY 68.1 billion (USD 531 million, EUR 495 million). Since January 2020, domestic prices and exports of major fish products such as scallops, yellowtail flounder and sea bream have fallen due to COVID-19 and resulting restrictions on eating out. Additionally, operators face a shortage of foreign workers due to entry bans, which affect both fishers and processors. In response, the government provides financial support by covering interest payments and the cost of loan guarantees on loans for fishing operations or for existing debts.

Fishermen will see the income stabilization efforts of the new budget. The country’s income stabilization fund, which is used to compensate for the drop in income of fishermen, will be multiplied by three to reach 59.2 billion yen (462 million dollars, 430 million euros). The budget also includes support for the temporary storage of an oversupply of fish products caused by reduced demand, and for the promotion of sales to new sales channels.

Additional aid to fishermen and aquaculture businesses comes in the form of subsidies for fuel and compound feed, both of which have skyrocketed in price. The grant budget increased fivefold to 8.9 billion JPY (69 million USD, 64 million EUR). The Japanese government implements “safety net” subsidy programs when the prices of these goods rise above a certain amount.

Funds to expand resource assessments by government survey vessels or by contracting with vessel owners, and to increase the number of fishing ports implementing computerized landings data, have been reduced to 1 .3 billion yen (10.1 million dollars, 9.4 million euros). Delays caused by COVID-19 have reduced the number of assessments and implementations.

The expanded surveys and better real-time record keeping are needed as part of Japan’s shift from managing most species to a Total Allowable Effort (TAE) system – in which the number, size and fishing vessel operating period, and types of allowed, are regulated – to a total allowable catch (TAC) system with vessel quotas for most species, as required by the Japanese reform law fisheries, adopted at the end of 2018.

The budget for supporting human resources was also reduced to 100 million JPY (0.7 million USD, 0.72 million EUR). The average age of fishers is high and there is a lack of young people to take over many businesses. There is also a lack of management capacity in the fishing cooperatives, which play an important role in the management of coastal fishing in each local fishing village. In response, the government provides funds to young people before employment, during long-term training at fishing sites, and supports the improvement of the management capacity of fishermen.

Conversely, the budget for strengthening the competitiveness of coastal fisheries and for subsidies to revitalize the vitality of beaches and promote growth almost doubled to 4.5 billion yen (35 million dollars, €33 million). This includes funding for the construction of shared facilities to increase fishermen’s incomes, renewable energy facilities and anti-poaching measures.

Additional aid in the form of funds for a vessel leasing scheme, intended to help new entrants who might not be able to afford full ownership, increased tenfold to 25.6 billion yen (200 million dollars, 186 million euros). In addition, funding for pelagic and offshore fisheries reforms was tripled to 6.5 billion JPY (50 million USD, 47 million EUR). To make the fishing industry more profitable while reducing CO2 emissions, the agency will introduce high-performance fishing vessels and demonstrate new operating and production systems.

The budget for aquaculture feed, seedlings and fishing grounds research remained unchanged at 300 million JPY (2.3 million USD, 2.2 million EUR), which seems to be a benchmark budget for most ongoing research activities.

A demonstration project of a large-scale offshore aquaculture system using information and communication technology (ICT) saw its budget increase from 2 billion JPY (15.6 million USD, 14.4 million EUR ) to 6.5 billion JPY (50.7 million USD, 47.2 million EUR). The project aims to demonstrate new technologies such as an automatic feeder and a cloud system for aquaculture data management, and is also a demonstration of market-style aquaculture – matching production to market needs rather than the reverse.

For inland waters and measures for salmon and other resources, the budget remained unchanged at 1.4 billion JPY (10.9 million USD, 10.2 million EUR). The funds will support the review of sustainable salmon management, the establishment of an appropriate management system for inland water resources such as eels, and the conversion to a drainage system needed to improve the salmon return rate.

To improve the management and operations of fisheries cooperatives, the benchmark figure was doubled to 600 million JPY (4.6 million USD, 4.3 million EUR). The money will be used to strengthen the management base and help secure new funds. The number of cooperative members in Japan has declined and many have merged, but there are still many micro-cooperatives. It is necessary to strengthen the business and management bases of the cooperatives through further mergers and further strengthen their sales activities.

To establish a competitive processing and distribution structure and stimulate demand for marine products, the budget more than tripled to 2 billion yen (15.6 million dollars, 14.4 million euros). The money will be used to improve the productivity of the fisheries value chain by coordinating production, processing, distribution and sales. It will also support the use of advanced production technologies.

In addition, it will cover storage and transport costs for stagnant stocks and support efforts to develop new products based on modern lifestyles and increase consumption of marine products, including by providing information. There is a growing trend of simplification and outsourcing of consumer food in recent years, so the importance of processing has increased in the consumption of fish products.

The budget for fisheries infrastructure development projects was cut by about a third to 27 billion JPY (210 million USD, 196 million EUR). The money will go towards the introduction of larger fishing vessels in the base ports and the improvement of the distribution functions of the fishing ports, as well as disaster prevention and mitigation and resilience. against these. An additional JPY 100 million (USD 700,000, EUR 720,000) will go to facilities that contribute to the greening of fishing ports.

The government has budgeted 78.8 billion yen ($612 million, 572 million euros) for development grants to farming, forestry and fishing villages for infrastructure and disaster mitigation. Measures to raise and strengthen coastal levees and disaster recovery projects will cost 4.4 billion yen ($34 million, 32 million euros), more than three times the original figure. The increase is due to the cost of processing floating pumice stones from a volcano in the Pacific Ocean.

To counter the incursion of foreign fishing vessels into Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), as well as to combat red tides and support foreshore conservation, a budget of 5 billion yen (38.2 million dollars, 35.6 million euros) was a third of the initial figure.

Support for whaling has been budgeted at 5.1 billion yen (40 million dollars, 37 million euros), to fund a demonstration project and collect scientific data.

Many budget priorities are further explained in the Fisheries Agency White Paper.

Photo courtesy of Dane Gillet/Shutterstock

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