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Summary report, 16–17 May 2017

International Conference on Seafood Transparency and Sustainability

The International Conference on Seafood Transparency and Sustainability took place from 16-17 May 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. The meeting was co-organized by the Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency (FRA), Waseda University and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and was attended by approximately 300 participants, representing government, the private sector, academia, media and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.

Given Japan’s position as a major player in the global fishing industry, as both a consumer and producer, the Conference was organized to: provide Japanese stakeholders with an opportunity to share information, particularly on the impact of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; share information about how other nations address seafood transparency and sustainability; and discuss next steps to increasing transparency and sustainability in Japan.

On the first day of the meeting, panels convened on the use of technology for monitoring and detecting IUU fishing and the prospect for international cooperation for combating IUU fishing. On the second day, panels focused on exploring policies and measures to promote seafood transparency and achieve sustainable fisheries and the use of fisheries certification and labels.

Following a brief introduction and history, this report provides an overview of discussions that took place during the Conference.


THE UN CONFERENCE ON STRADDLING FISH STOCKS AND HIGHLY MIGRATORY FISH STOCKS (UNFSA): The UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, called for by Agenda 21, was convened by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to address problems related to the harvesting of these stocks on the high seas. Six substantive sessions were held from 1993 to 1995, resulting in the adoption of the UNFSA in August 1995. The UNFSA entered into force on 11 December 2001 and currently has 83 parties.

2009 PORT STATE MEASURES AGREEMENT (PSMA): The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU Fishing was adopted by the FAO Conference in 2009. The main purpose of the Agreement is to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing through the implementation of robust port state measures. The PSMA envisages that parties, in their capacities as port states, will apply the Agreement in an effective manner to foreign vessels when seeking entry to ports or while they are in port. The Agreement entered into force on 5 June 2016, and the first Meeting of the Parties is scheduled to convene in late May 2017.

INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON CAPACITY BUILDING FOR SUSTAINABLE OCEANS: This meeting convened in Tokyo, Japan in July 2016 and included representatives of international organizations, UN agencies, academia, community leaders and government representatives. Hosted by the Nippon Foundation, the Government of Japan and TNC, the Symposium focused on global ocean capacity building practices including: fisheries management, protection of the marine environment, climate resilience, science for decision making, education, cross-sectoral training and global and regional multi-stakeholder engagement. Key points from the Symposium included: the importance of understanding ocean science; connecting science to policy; linking governments with communities; having appropriate legislation; and considering socio-economic issues.

INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON PROTECTING FISHERIES RESOURCES AND FISHERIES INDUSRY FROM IUU FISHING: During this Symposium, hosted by GR Japan in November 2016, participants discussed US and EU initiatives to combat IUU fishing and promote sustainable seafood consumption as well as the applicability of such initiatives to the Japanese market.


The Conference included five sessions over the course of two days. On the first day, two sessions convened following an opening address. On the second day, three sessions convened following a morning field trip to Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.



Maria Damanaki, Global Managing Director for Oceans, TNC, welcomed participants to the Conference stating that the primary way to tackle IUU fishing is through cooperation between all sectors of society, including government, industry, NGOs and civil society. She lauded the good news that the Japanese Diet recently approved ratification of the PSMA. Masahiko Gemma, Director, Organization for Regional and Inter-Regional Studies (ORIS), Waseda University, said that as co-host, Waseda University was pleased to see the participation of decision makers at the Conference.


This session was facilitated by Masanori Miyahara, President, FRA. Yoshioki Oozeki, Councilor, FRA, introduced the results of a satellite image processing analysis for monitoring Chinese fishing boats’ activities in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Despite some imprecision, he said, results indicate a large number of Chinese vessels conducting IUU fishing operations including refrigeration, fish processing and transportation. Vessels were detected using satellite remote sensing of light at night combined with the automatic identification system (AIS) to track maritime traffic.

Hiromi Shiraishi, Programme Officer, TRAFFIC, underscored “rampant” IUU fishing originating from Taiwan, but said that both fishing and consuming countries have important roles to play in finding a solution. Combating illegality, she said, is just a means to an end of responsibly using fisheries resources. She urged countries to take cooperative action. In China, she said, IUU fishing operations are often highlighted, but Japan must also work on its own IUU fishing challenges and recognize its position as the country importing most Chinese and Taiwanese seafood.

Quentin Hanich, Associate Professor, Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security, University of Wollongong, remarked on the novel usage of AIS for fisheries management and surveillance. He shared a case study on the western and central Pacific tuna fisheries, noting that: AIS data can indicate the amount, intensity and location of fishing; transshipments associated with IUU fishing; and, can even detect the fishing method such as trawling, long-lining or purse seine. He highlighted that inaccuracy exists particularly when vessels deliberately broadcast false positions.

Tony Long, Director, Ending Illegal Fishing Project, Pew Charitable Trusts, said that IUU fishing is an international security issue that includes components of bonded labor and tax evasion. He introduced the Eyes on the Seas project that combines satellite monitoring with AIS and the vessel monitoring system (VMS) to detect suspicious behavior. For example, transshipment operations taking place by ships with disabled AIS can in fact be detected by monitoring the speed and direction of other nearby fishing vessels that are behaving in a suspicious way.

Following the presentations, panelists took questions from the audience. Hanich discussed the successful use of technology to bring prosecutions against ship owners, one of which settled out of court based solely on AIS and VMS evidence. Responding to a question about using his analysis to put pressure on China, Oozeki said that the analysis is currently a test case and can’t yet be used as a basis for negotiation. Long said that technology is useful because it can tell you that an event such as fishing or transshipment has occurred, but without cross-referencing to permitting information it can’t necessarily indicate if it is an illegal act. Miyahara said that intergovernmental dialogues need to be opened as soon as possible, and that the type of analyses described during the session will provide necessary data to discuss specific instances of IUU. Long noted that AIS is controlled by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and is promoted as a safety system, not a fishing monitoring system, which creates tension for anti-IUU fishing use. Responding to a question, Shiraishi stated that there are currently no special statistics on fish exports from China to Africa.


This session was moderated by Charles Bedford, Regional Managing Director, Asia Pacific Region Program, TNC. Stefaan Depypere, Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, European Commission, underscored the importance of measures promoting national and international cooperation against IUU fishing. He said that on the global level, rules need to be set through multilateral negotiations, while on the local level there is a need for effective enforcement measures. He lauded initiatives such as this Conference for engendering cooperation between the EU, Japan and the US. He also underscored the importance of setting the same guidelines in different countries to reward legal fishing while punishing IUU fishing activities.

John Henderschedt, Director, Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), US, said that combating IUU fishing is a “whole of government” initiative that includes: international engagement, enhanced enforcement, strengthened partnerships and seafood traceability. He lauded the Japanese Diet’s recent approval of ratification of the PSMA, and said that international cooperation must promote shared objectives while acknowledging diverse government frameworks and differing socio-economic positions. He highlighted NOAA’s Seafood Import Monitoring Program that tracks seafood from point of harvest to market entry and places responsibility for compliance on the importer.

Philippe Michaud, Special Adviser, the Blue Economy Department, Vice President’s Office, Seychelles, listed successful international IUU combatting initiatives including the Indian Ocean Commission Regional Fisheries Surveillance Programme, the PSMA, IUU regulations in the EU, and the FISH-i-Africa Task Force in the western Indian Ocean. Above all, he said, domestic incentives against IUU fishing are a crucial foundation for successful international cooperation. He also underscored the importance of personal relationships among government officials from different countries and regions in order to combat IUU fishing.

Shigeto Hase, Deputy Director-General, Japan Fisheries Agency (JFA), discussed a bilateral agreement between Japan and the Russian Federation to prevent IUU fishing of crabs, which has reduced illegally imported crabs by one third since 2014. He highlighted the importance of regional fisheries management organizations (RMFOs), as well as ratification of the PSMA. He said that official vessels operating in China are putting pressure on the Chinese government to regulate IUU vessels since much of the IUU catch is destined for the domestic Chinese market. Furthermore, the Northern Pacific Fisheries Commission, which includes Japan, is a multilateral process that can supplement bilateral processes with other countries such as China, he said.

Sven Biermann, Director, Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI), explained that FiTI is a voluntary, international initiative based on a true sense of partnership among multiple stakeholders from government, academia, business and civil society, as opposed to a consultation dominated by one party. Five countries including Indonesia and the Seychelles are piloting the Initiative, he said, which aims to increase transparency and participation in fisheries governance to create a level playing field. With transparency itself as a starting point, horizontal and vertical collaboration are equally important in attaining the goal of the initiative, Biermann said.

During the ensuing discussion, Michaud said it is important to engage with civil society and fishermen so that no one is left out. In response to a question about a reversal in progress on transparency in the Pacific, Biermann said that there is an expectation that new contracts and agreements (for example among business and government) will be made public and transparent. Depypere highlighted the importance of putting responsibility on the flag state in terms of proving the legality of a catch, but that this can be problematic for Pacific states due to a perception that some information, particularly contained in contracts, is proprietary. Hase said that market mechanisms need to be utilized, especially in Japan, and that a step-by-step approach should be taken to implement regulations and financial penalties. Henderschedt said that enforcement authorities could be expanded leading to a better toolbox for investigation.


Kenji Horiguchi, President, Japan Institute of Agricultural Management and Professor Emeritus, Waseda University, closed the day’s events saying he was impressed by the outcome and advances being made bilaterally and multilaterally on the IUU fishing issue.



Maria Damanaki, Global Managing Director for Oceans, TNC, welcomed participants, emphasizing the importance of finding a localized way for different stakeholders to cooperate and advance the cause of sustainable fisheries in Japan.

Kaoru Kamata, President, Waseda University, reviewed Waseda University’s academic achievements and highlighted its ongoing Ocean Initiative, supported by the Japanese government, which aims to improve the quality and quantity of research, and to cultivate global leaders.


Shigeru Ishiba, Member of the House of Representatives and Chair, Liberal Democratic Party’s Fisheries Basic Policy Committee, Japan, said that although Japan exports lots of cars and technological products it has yet to become competitive with agricultural products and seafood. He called for reducing production costs, increasing the income of fishermen and attracting new fishermen, diversifying distribution channels and improving vessel licensing. He said that Japan has resolved to fight against IUU fishing, hailed the approval of ratification of the PSMA as an important step forward, and concluded that Japan has an important role to play internationally in combating IUU fishing.

Shigeto Hase, Deputy Director-General, JFA, on behalf of Kazuo Sato, Director-General, FRA, remarked on the importance of fish both as a nutritious food and source of income, and expressed the FRA’s willingness to work with agencies in the northwest Pacific region. He hailed Japan’s approval of ratification of the PSMA as well as an agreement with the Russian Federation restricting IUU fishing.

Addressing the meeting via video, Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said that fighting IUU fishing has been a priority for the EU since 2010, noting that it is a shared responsibility that cannot be accomplished by a single country. He highlighted joint agreements between the EU and the US as well as the EU and Japan (signed in 2011 and 2012 respectively) that extend cooperation on IUU fishing. He suggested these countries to use their combined market power to push for change.

Kahori Miyake, Executive Officer, CSR and Communication, AEON Co. Ltd., said that AEON’s seafood procurement policy affects 20,000 shops worldwide. AEON, she said, has a goal of obtaining Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certifications for the majority of its seafood by 2020. She said that certifications like MSC and ASC allow retailers to powerfully influence consumers in positive ways.

Speaking by video, H.S.H. Albert II, Prince of Monaco, lauded the importance of the Conference for providing a unique platform for dialogue and emphasized the role Japan plays in containing IUU fishing for the sake of feeding the world, without depleting the global marine resource.


Masanori Miyahara, President, FRA, reviewed the prior day’s proceedings and emphasized the importance of adopting new technology to monitor IUU fishing under regional cooperation. He also said that the PSMA provides an efficient tool to combat IUU fishing but proper implementation will require further examination and wide adoption.


The session was facilitated by Hiroshi Ohta, ORIS Waseda University. Tetsuji Ida, Senior Staff Reporter, KYODO NEWS, described Japanese IUU fishing as “rampant” with at least 7,000 cases reported in 2015 most of which were poaching of unagi, or glass eel. He described a vicious cycle wherein IUU fishing leads to depleted stocks, which leads to higher prices and therefore even more IUU fishing. He called for effective measures to implement the PSMA, stronger disincentives for IUU fishing perpetrators, and ensuring there are enough resources to enforce laws and regulations. He said although MSC and ASC are good measures, there is still almost a “complete lack of traceability” of products in Japan.

Mark Zimring, Director, Indo-Pacific Tuna Program, TNC, discussed advanced technology and data analysis methods to fill key fisheries information gaps. He praised new e-monitoring methods for filling some core data collection gaps previously requiring human observation. He cited successful e-monitoring projects such as with Australia long line fishing and British Columbia groundfish fisheries, and he noted activities and trial programs in China and Japan. Above all, he said, technology can only be effective when data is used by policymakers for frontline fisheries management.

Thomas Kraft, CEO, Norpac Fisheries Export, spoke about a private sector-led project in Indonesia that used technology to track fish as they are landed and processed through the supply chain. He said that this multi-stakeholder effort created a system that can be accessed by industry, government, scientists and consumers in real time. By capturing information about catch species, length, quantity and location, he said, policymakers can pinpoint areas of overfishing and simultaneously send information up the supply chain to buyers. He underscored the importance of “seafood with stories” to change consumer behavior and explained the use of QR codes on menus that allow consumers to know exactly what they are eating and where a specific fish came from.

Yasuyuki Yamamoto, Merchandising Strategy Department, AEON Co. Ltd., reviewed his company’s work bringing local Japanese seafood standards into compliance with existing international standards such as MSC. As a global retailer, AEON adopted certification requirements for the whole procurement process to ensure food safety and avoid labor and human right violations, he said. He also added that AEON will try to procure more domestically-produced organic food in the future.

Wakao Hanaoka, CEO, Seafood Legacy, discussed market mechanisms to counter IUU fishing. He emphasized partnerships, saying that although in many countries’ NGOs have partnerships with restaurants and supermarkets, such partnerships are almost nonexistent in Japan. Highlighting the case of US consumers who sued retailers over allegations of slavery on fishing boats, he said that a lack of seafood traceability represents a major risk for businesses. On traceability, he urged partnerships involving third parties to verify data.

During the comment portion of the session, Quentin Hanich, said that as a global provider and consumer of seafood, Japan is in a leading position to strengthen joint efforts against IUU fishing.

Commenting on the presentation, Yasutoshi Homma, Managing Director, Hokkaido Fisheries Cooperative, said that illegal fishing is like bank robbery, using up all of the deposits of marine resources that belong to humanity, and that the Hokkaido prefectural government has adopted surveillance measures to monitor illegal fishing activities, and also banned nighttime fishing for the purpose of containing rampant illegal fishing of sea cucumbers.

Responding to a question about the impact of certification systems on price, Yamamoto responded that AEON will absorb the costs of implementing certification systems and not increase prices for customers.


This session was facilitated by Hiroshi Ohta, ORIS, Waseda University. Mitsutaku Makino, Head, Fisheries Policy Research Group, FRA National Research Institute of Fisheries Science, described the SHUN project, which stands for Sustainable, Healthy and Umai (“delicious”) Nippon Seafood. The program, he said, is designed by researchers so that consumers can understand the seafood resource situation and make educated choices. He underscored that all criteria for evaluation are public so that consumers can choose what is important to them.

Josh Madeira, Federal Policy Manager, Monterey Bay Aquarium, described the Aquarium’s integration of sustainable fishing knowledge and seafood into its program to engage and cultivate awareness of visitors and consumers. He further detailed the Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program that rates the sustainability of seafood products and he expressed interest in collaborating with more organizations on seafood ratings.

Kozo Ishii, Program Director, MSC Japan Office, said that certification schemes like MSC leverage consumer power against IUU fishing. As a fisheries certification scheme, he said, MSC evaluates the degree of IUU fishing in a fishery when choosing whether or not to provide certification. He said that for fisheries where resources or management have been impaired by IUU activities, it is extremely difficult to get certification. He underscored the role of RMFOs in keeping lists of IUU vessels and ensuring that the catch from such ships is neither accepted nor mixed with certified products.

Naoya Kakizoe, President, Marine Eco-label Japan Council, reviewed the history of international recognition of various certification systems for sustainable seafood and then detailed the seafood labeling system in Japan. He urged the fishing industry to shift from merely catching fish to encouraging values of sustainability for all consumers.

Isao Sakaguchi, Professor, Gakushin University and Visiting Scholar, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, said private certification schemes are necessary due to government failure. He went on to discuss weaknesses in the various certification schemes, such as when the cost of evaluation is so low that it becomes advantageous for applicants and can lead to “bluewashing.” He said that without adhering to stringent criteria certification schemes will not be trustworthy. He underscored the need for international standards like MSC to recognize localized standards.

Hisanori Okada, Environmental Research Center, Waseda University, detailed the W-Bridge (Waseda Bridgestone) initiative, which has been running for nine years and has developed 150 projects aimed at finding new global environmental solutions by engaging the public, academia and other forces.

Addressing a question from the Japanese media on how to choose particular evaluation and ratings approaches, Makino explained that his organization’s main work is to gather and provide scientific information to people, and the latter decides which criteria they should adopt. Madeira responded that experiences working with different criteria indeed can be useful for setting up new alliances. On whether the MSC scheme was imposing values on developing countries, Ishii responded that MSC has a diversified membership that represents different regions as well as the global fishing industry. Ishii underscored that small fishing bodies should not be omitted from the scheme. An audience member from Tokyo Marine University commented on the significance of the Conference, which he said shows Japan is starting to take a leadership role as a big importing country for seafood in fighting against IUU.


Masanori Miyahara, President, FRA, underscored the threat of IUU fishing to both Japan and the world and highlighted strong political leadership in Japan to fight against IUU fishing, particularly with approval of ratification of the PSMA. He appreciated the contributions from Conference participants, noting the event represented the first Conference of its type in Japan since it was co-sponsored by an NGO, academia and government (TNC, Waseda and FRA respectively). Japan, he said, is expected to play the role of champion alongside the US and EU for effective implementation of the PSMA, and other relevant measures to eliminate IUU. But, he cautioned, Japan needs to re-examine and develop its own internal measures to meet such expectations. He reiterated the need for international cooperation to end IUU fishing and said that it is essential for China to be included in the conversation. He pointed to the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games as a unique opportunity for Japan, as host country, to advance its agenda to end IUU fishing.

Hiroshi Ohta, ORIS, Waseda University, said that the Conference represents one of the first attempts to bring together different sectors in a meaningful dialogue about IUU fishing in Japan. He went on to summarize the day’s sessions and said that the main challenge in Japan is raising awareness about the current state of global fish stocks. He said that competition between multiple certification systems is positive, and echoed Miyahara’s hope that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be used as a platform to disseminate the message about seafood sustainability and IUU fishing.

Charles Bedford, Regional Managing Director, Asia Pacific Region Program, TNC, said that as fishing gear has evolved from hooks and spears to nets and trawlers, seafood has become part of a global supply chain that needs to be addressed at all levels and sectors. He welcomed Japan’s approval of ratification of the PSMA and said he expects Japan, as one of the three biggest seafood markets, to continue playing a leading role in the fight against IUU fishing, particularly by encouraging other countries to ratify the PSMA. He closed by saying that as humans we often have trouble putting down the chopsticks or the fork and knife, but that we don’t want to be the generation that takes the last bite, and therefore he urged restraint and a commitment to sustainability.


Atsushi Ishiyama, Vice President for Research Promotion and Professor, Waseda University, closed the Conference, lauding achievements over the two days including drawing ideas from different cultures, countries and sectors into a singular hope of transmitting marine resources to future generations. He also highlighted participants’ morning tour to the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, noting that the conversations that took place there would help them expand the network they created during the Conference. He closed the Conference at 6:05 p.m.


International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee: The International Whaling Commission (IWC) will hold the annual meeting of its Scientific Committee, one of its two major meeting forums, in Bled, Slovenia.  dates: 9-21 May 2017   location: Bled, Slovenia  contact: IWC Secretariat  phone: +44 (0) 1223-233-971  fax: +44 (0) 1223-232-876  www:

First Meeting of the Parties to the 2009 FAO Agreement on Port State Measures: The FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing entered into force on 5 June 2016.  dates: 29-31 May 2017  location: Oslo, Norway  contact: Matthew Camilleri, FAO  email: www:

High-Level UN Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14: This high-level UN Conference, co-hosted by the Governments of Fiji and Sweden, will coincide with the World Oceans Day, and seeks to support the implementation of SDG 14.  dates: 5-9 June 2017  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: Permanent Missions of Fiji and Sweden  phone: +1-212-687-4130 (Fiji); +1-212-583-2500 (Sweden)  www:

BBNJ PrepCom 4: The fourth meeting of the Preparatory Committee established by General Assembly resolution 69/292 (Development of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction) will address marine genetic resources, area-based management tools, environmental impact assessments, capacity building, transfer of marine technology, and cross-cutting issues. The session is expected to prepare recommendations to the UN General Assembly for the Assembly to decide at its seventy-second session whether to convene an intergovernmental conference to elaborate the text of the agreement.  dates: 10-21 July 2017  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UNDOALOS  phone: +1-212-963-3962  email:   www:

OUR OCEAN CONFERENCE 2017: The European Union will host the fourth ‘Our Ocean’ Conference, which will focus on issues related to the ocean and climate change, marine pollution, sustainable fishing, and sustainable blue growth, including tidal and wave technology. The Conference will also report on and review implementation of commitments made at previous ‘Our Ocean’ Conferences and seek new commitments.  dates: 5-6 October 2017  location: Malta  contact: Ramon van Barneveld  phone: +32 229-84602  email: www:

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