Japan, surrounded by ocean and with little agricultural land, has always been heavily dependent on fish for protein.
Japan, surrounded by ocean and with little agricultural land, has always been heavily dependent on fish for protein. But as its industries have grown, coastal pollution and dwindling local fish stocks have taken its fishing boats further from its shores. Now Japan's fishing boats roam the world.
The United Nations-sponsored Law of the Sea Conference in Caracas, Venezuela next month (June) is expected to make a determined effort to curb the fishing activities of countries like Japan. The developing nations want a limit of 200 miles (320 kms) for each country's fishing zone. If such a limit is imposed, the effect on Japan's fishing industry would be nothing short of catastrophic.
At least 85 percent of all marine products consumed in Japan came from within the proposed 200 mile limit. Tuna comes from the North and South American coasts, squid and seaweed from the African shoreline, and bream from the European coasts. Most of this food is taken to Japan by roving trawler fleets owned and manned by Japanese, but if Japan had to buy and import these same products from other countries, economic experts say it would break the country's economy within a matter of years.
In an attempt to safeguard its access to fishing grounds within 200 mile radii of other countries, Japan has been making bargains. In 1964 it was involved in 26 joint fishing ventures - now there are more than eighty. But although these help to alleviate future problems, the resuscitation of Japan's own local fishing grounds is recognised as probably the only real answer.
The government has vastly increased its spending on the development of intensive fish farming, and government as well as private fish farms have appeared along several coasts. fish are bred selectively in floating tanks for release and captured later by conventional methods. But as the pressure for more fish protein increases, these farms are expected to be used like battery-chicken units, to fatten the fish for eating.
Overfishing and chronic pollution have combined to bring fishing to a virtual end around Japan. Over the past few years many people have died from poisonous industrial wastes that have accumulated after eating fish caught in Japan's coastal waters. But although many voices have been raised in protest, ??? grip of the industrial giants is such that they have had little effect on the pollution which continues to pour into the seas from the factories. Economics dictates that it is cheaper to bring fish from abroad than to harvest them at home, but if national fishing limits are imposed, economies may well d??? a change in Japan's attitude to its fishing industry.