TOKYO >> The Fisheries Agency plans to create a database for marine resources based on genetic material left in seawater by fish.
The agency intends to collect seawater samples in the sea around Japan as early as this summer, and start to gather and analyze the data of environmental DNA to specify the species and volume of fish.
Japan’s fish catches are declining due to changes in the marine environment and overfishing. The agency’s move is aimed at introducing restrictions on fishing based on more scientific data and leading to the protection of marine resources.
According to the plan, samples will be collected from the Pacific Ocean, the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan at various depths and seasons of the year.
It will take four years to gather the data.
The agency wants to analyze results to develop criteria for fishing restrictions for species such as bluefin tuna, saury and Japanese flying squid, known as surumeika.
Past research on marine resources was conducted by catching fish with a net or using fish sonar, a costly and time-consuming method with considerable variations in the survey results.
The new research method will gather data mainly from the mucus and droppings of fish.
If the characteristics of DNA included in the seawater samples match those of the DNA of a species of fish that have been detected by research in the past, it will be possible to specify the species living around the area in which the seawater samples have been taken.
“(The new method) is convenient and the accuracy is extremely high,” said Satoshi Kameyama, a senior researcher at the National Institute for Environmental Studies.
This technique also has no negative influence on fish, unlike methods that involve catching fish from different regions.
The agency hopes the data analysis will provide a more precise forecast of marine resources and more effective fishing restrictions, leading to the recovery of marine resources.