Japan Might Be Fishless In 2050 As Catch Declines To Lowest

Japan Might Be Fishless In 2050 As Catch Declines To Lowest

Want more UJ? Get our FREE newsletter 

Need a preview? See our archives

Fishers inspecting a tuna catch
Picture: fumi / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
Japan is known for its seafood. But for how long? Experts warn that the island nation could find itself fishless in the next three decades.

In 2050, Japan will have no more fish in its nets, according to experts. New data released on Friday shows that the domestic harvest of fish hit a record low last year, marking a third year of decline.

No fish from Japan in 2050?

Japan harvested the least amount of fish in 2023 and may catch nothing at all in 2050.

In 2023, Japan reeled in about 3.7 million tons of fish, according to data released on Friday by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF). The figure fell for the 3rd year in a row and plummeted 4.3% from 2022.

Today’s fish catch is only 30% of what it was four decades ago in 1984 when fishing was at its height.

At the current rate, Japan’s fish barrels will be empty soon.

Associate professor Katsukawa Toshio at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology is an expert in aquaculture and fisheries and says “Japan’s fish catch is declining at a pace that it will reach near-zero in 2050.”

Fishing in Russian waters

Picture: Milvus / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

The government aims to boost catches by about 16% by 2030 in a bid to deter the complete collapse of Japan’s fisheries.


Efforts were already underway on Friday when Japan and Russia held talks to allow Japanese fishing operators to catch salmon and trout within Russia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Earlier negotiations in March between the two nations agreed on Japan’s 2024 annual fishing quota from Russian rivers at 2,050 tons, unchanged from 2023.

Japan dethroned by China

Japan was home to the world’s biggest fisheries industry until China claimed the title in 1988.

Less freedom to fish in deep sea and offshore areas contributed to Japan’s downfall after the concept of EEZ was introduced during the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (1973-1982). Other contributing factors include climate change, which has raised seawater temperature, and overfishing.

Uoya Toshinori from the Fisheries Agency says, “If Japan had strictly managed its resources, we wouldn’t be in our current situation.”

Japan eats less fish

Assortment of seafood
Picture: Sixcube / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Ceding not only its crown of top producer, Japan is becoming less of a consumer of fish.

The shift away from a diet rich in fish stems from not only a smaller catch but also rising prices of imported fish amid a weak yen economy. Exchange rates have a significant impact on fish imports, as Japan sources over 40% of its fish from overseas.

In the case of the Pacific saury, Japanese households eat 90% less of the fish compared to 2009. Meanwhile, China’s fish consumption has increased by 50% in the past 50 years.  

If not in home-cooked meals, what about fish consumption in restaurants?

Popular chains serving sushi at cheap prices like Sushiro have raised prices as imports of salmon and other fish have become more costly. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has disrupted trade with Europe, leading to higher prices.

What to read next


15年で購入料は1割に…不良で深刻なサンマ離れ 今年は?. JIJI

日本とロシア、サケマス漁業交渉 ロシア側水域対象に3年ぶり. 東京新聞

2023年の漁獲量、3年連続減少で過去最低を更新 サバやカツオの不漁目立つ. 産経新聞

減少止まらない漁獲量、過去最低を更新 サケなど3魚種で深刻な不漁. 朝日新聞

県内の昨年度の漁獲量2600トン余 記録残る中で最小に. NHK

堕ちた漁業大国・ニッポン。魚の獲りすぎをやめないと、日本の魚は枯渇=ゼロになる. 東洋経済

Want more UJ? Get our FREE newsletter 

Need a preview? See our archives

Japan in Translation

Subscribe to our free newsletter for a weekly digest of our best work across platforms (Web, Twitter, YouTube). Your support helps us spread the word about the Japan you don’t learn about in anime.

Want a preview? Read our archives

You’ll get one to two emails from us weekly. For more details, see our privacy policy