Seafood has always been one of Japan’s most traditional and valuable sources of protein, with the country famous for its fish dishes like salmon and unagi – but in recent years the trend seems to be moving in the opposite direction, with many younger generation consumers moving away from seafood in favor of chicken or pork.
As early as 2018, researchers had highlighted a significant drop in fish consumption in Japan, claiming that it had fallen from 70% of the country’s total animal protein consumption in the 1960s to less than 40% in 2014. .
More recent research released last year showed that Japan has the largest drop in seafood consumption in the world among countries with more than 30 kg of seafood consumed per capita. Researchers have speculated that this is caused by younger consumers, as the decline was thought to be much more pronounced among consumers under 40, and the reason for the decline is due to increased Westernization. diets among this demographic, making bread, beef, chicken, and pork more popular than fish.
In order to stem this decline, the Japanese government launched a new “Fisheries Basic Plan” earlier this year, after the expiration of a five-year National Fisheries Plan, with this new strategy to govern the progress and the development of the fishing industry over the next decade.
“Japan is blessed with a wide variety of marine products surrounded by the sea on all four sides, and the fishing industry has long been considered an important food supplier to support the health and economy of the population, [hence] it is crucial to ensure a stable supply of fish products and to develop the industry properly,”The Japan Fisheries Agency (JFA) said via an official statement.
“One of our main areas of focus under this new baseline plan will be to carefully manage fisheries resources based on scientific changes in marine environments and to revitalize local fishing villages which are essential to sustain industry growth.
“It is important to note that every effort will be made to accelerate the industrialization of the Japanese fishing industry in order to promote sustainable growth and improve the society and economy of the stakeholders of this industry and to manage current and evolving risks facing the sector.
“The fisheries sector will need to effectively implement countermeasures against COVID-19, recovery measures after the impacts of the Great East Japan Earthquake and more; and also implement the use of smart fishing technologies and methods to meet Japan’s carbon neutrality commitments and self-sufficiency goals.
The agency also pointed to a significant drop in seafood production as one of the sector’s biggest challenges, such as saury’s fall from 229,000 tonnes in 2014 to around 30,000 tonnes in 2020; and salmon from 147,000 tonnes in 2014 to around 56,000 tonnes in 2020. These declines have been attributed to poor management of fish resources and illegal fishing.
“Furthermore, although more than 10 years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, ports and fisheries have continued to be affected, as have sales in the fishing industry. fish processing and import restrictions on Japanese marine products,” he added.says JFA.
“These are all areas of concern for Japan as the impacts are negatively affecting many industry players, including harvesters, fish processors, distributors and more at a time when there are already concerns about economic stagnation due to a declining birth rate, aging and declining population, labor shortages and more locally [hence] reviving the fishing sector is very important for the future of Japan.
The new fisheries basic plan was approved by the Japanese cabinet on March 25, 2022 and will be implemented once the previous five-year plan expires at the end of April 2022.
Recognize the drop in demand
In its final report on the basic plan, although JFA acknowledged that local demand is down, the agency has no plans to decrease production and instead aims to both revitalize interest in local seafood products and to target seafood exports abroad.
“Japan’s domestic demand for seafood seems [set on a course of] long-term decline due to aging society and declining population – but the local seafood industry depends not only on domestic demand but also on exports, and [we also find it] necessary to work towards increasing the demand for seafood products”,says JFA.
“At present, imported seafood products occupy a large share of the domestic market, especially salmon, and to develop the local industry, we will seek to develop local production and work on adding value to products. local fisheries, in particular seafood from aquaculture. This will be in addition to collaborative efforts to develop new methods and channels of sales promotion, distribution, tourism, online sales and the development of processed products to generate new demand.
“There are also many strategic fishing items that Japan can consider developing as priority export products, such as yellowtail flounder, scallops, bluefin tuna, amberjack, groupers, pearls and Moreover. This strategy will look at developing the infrastructure and trade distribution networks needed for exports and reducing further trade restrictions with export destination markets.