Brazilian tuna vessel. (Photo: mileniodomar.org.br)
Brazilian and Japanese boats in an unequal struggle for tuna
Friday, August 31, 2012, 03:00 (GMT + 9)
An area of about 3,000 square kilometers, which is equivalent to 0.09 per cent of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Brazil, has become a 'battlefield' in which Japanese and Brazilian boats compete to fish for the sought-after tuna.
The worldwide sushi boom contributes to increasing the demand for tuna, which is its main ingredient, and especially to increasing the pressure on already stressed bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) fisheries.
According to an article published by the journal National Geographic, 95 per cent of the global population of tuna is used to make sushi. And the documentary Sushi: The Global Catch, recently released in the US, warns about the impact of the growing success of this Asian dish worldwide, and its effect on the population of tuna, the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported.
In the case of Brazil, the presence of Japanese vessels in its EEZ causes complaints from Brazilian fishermen, industrialists and environmentalists, who decry the permissiveness of the head of the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture (MPA), Marcelo Crivella.
"The Japanese vessels devastate our fish banks with an above-replacement volume," complained a local fisherman.
Between May and August, the ocean currents coming from Laguna de los Patos, in the southern Brazilian coast, and from the archipelago of the Falklands attract schools of tuna.
Modern Japanese-flagged vessels, which can reach up to 60 metres in length, can stay up to 90 days at sea and are capable of carrying 200 tonnes of fish.
However, the Brazilian tuna ships are between 15 and 20 years old and have up to 24 metres in length and lack refrigerators so they must make several trips to the fishing port to unload their products and stock up on ice.
In the fisheries sector, there are complains as to MPA, which offers better conditions to the Japanese ships by making it possible for Brazilian companies to lease foreign vessels.
Members of the industry and environmental organizations have challenged the measure because it allows ships to unload their fish in foreign ports, making it difficult to control production and causing the loss of jobs and capital flight, among other issues.
In 2010, 16 of the 17 licenses granted by the Ministry for foreign vessels were for Japanese fishing ships.
In exchange for between 85 per cent and 90 per cent of sales, the Japanese arrive with their boats, the necessary equipment, the fuel, their own crew and their insurance.
"Brazil is only prejudiced against the official theft of our fish stocks. Leasing magically turns Japanese vessels into Brazilian ones," the president of the Union of Dock and Fishing Industries of Santa Catarina, Giovani Monteiro, pointed out.
In mid-2011, MPA and the Japanese government agreed on the arrival of about 11 boats with tuna caught in the Atlantic Ocean at the port of Natal.
This initiative included the participation of the fishing firm Atlântico Tuna – from Rio Grande do Norte -- and of Japan Tuna, the largest fishing company in Japan.
With this agreement, the Government of Brazil wants Brazilian tuna industry to have greater presence in the international tuna market by increasing its production, so changing from contributing 1.5 per cent of the world production to contributing 25 per cent.
In defense of the agreement, the president of Atlântico Tuna, Gabriel Calzavara, explained that the use of Japanese technology, which freezes tuna at 60 degrees below zero, decreases the competitiveness of other countries such as Spain and the US.
- Association with Japan improves Brazilian tuna prospects
By Analia Murias