The Japanese government is developing a new support framework for companies in the fishing industry. The move came in response to the Chinese government’s blatant comprehensive ban on Japanese marine products. This ban began when the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant began discharging treated water.
The plan, ordered by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, consists of five pillars. These include steps to expand consumption and maintain production, strategies to counter the influence of rumors at home and abroad, and redirection to alternative destinations for marine product exports.
The new package of measures is designed to respond quickly to China’s brazen unilateral move. We hope it proves effective.
China has been an important customer of Japanese marine products. In 2022, total exports to China, including Hong Kong, reached 162.6 billion Japanese yen (about 1.1 billion US dollars). This represented 42% of Japan’s total seafood exports that year.
The sudden cessation of exports represents a severe blow to the industry. However, we should not give in to Beijing’s unjustified economic coercion that ignores scientific evidence.
Promoting local consumption
Increasing domestic consumption is one of the government support measures. This should be effective as a defensive measure and as a countermeasure. It is estimated that if Japanese people consumed just ¥1,600 (US$11) more per capita in seafood for a year, this would offset the value of lost exports to China and Hong Kong. This account seems quite plausible.
The Ministry of Defense also issued a deputy minister-level directive calling for active consumption of local marine products by the Self-Defense Forces and other personnel nationwide. Using more local seafood in meals served at bases and other facilities could revitalize coastal and marine fisheries. School lunches should also be made available to offer more local seafood.
The Japanese have been eating less fish per capita in recent decades. In fact, per capita meat consumption surpassed seafood consumption in 2011. The gap has continued to widen since then.
The stagnation in the fishery industry is also a problem from the point of view of ensuring a stable food supply to the country. However, the government is striving to find an effective solution to this problem.
In conjunction with the discharge of treated water into the ocean, the government established a fund for the fishing industry. It allocated JPY30 billion (about US$200 million) for reputational countermeasures and another JPY50 billion (US$340 million) for continued support for the fishing industry. An additional 20.7 billion Japanese yen (US$140 million) has now been added to new support measures.
Japan’s fishing industry faces serious challenges, such as a long-term decline in the number of local fishermen and over-reliance on the Chinese market. It is time to shake things up and revitalize our marine products sector into a growing industry.
Take scallops for example. Japan exports large quantities of these oysters to China. The new support project will allow local producers to provide new equipment for automatic peeling and processing of scallops. It will also help in developing new sales channels abroad among other initiatives.
Admittedly, the obstacles to be overcome are not low. But by working together as a nation, we hope we can overcome these challenges and revive Japan as a fishing superpower once again.
(Read the editorial In Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, Sankei Shimbun
(Tags for translation)Fishing industry