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The coral fishery and trade of Japan.


Japan harvested only 3 metric tons t of coral in 1988, down from 55t in 1982. The decline in Japanese coral production has been due largely to a scarcity of new coral beds. Because of the destructive nature of coral fishing, coral beds are " mined out " in 4-5 years. Although domestic production has declined, the Japanese have imported an average of only 18 t of coral annually since 1983. Japan purchased nearly 18t, valued at $4.4 million, in 1988.

Japanese coral fishermen are licensed by the Prefectural Governments of Tokyo, Kochi, Nagasaki, Kagoshima, and Okinawa, but are free from any national licensing system. In addition, there are no time, area, or vessel restrictions in force for coral fishing in Japanese waters. Because of this, no official Government records have been kept on the total amount of precious coral harvested in Japan.

There are three separate groups of coral fishermen in Japan: Coastal harvesters, submarine and robot harvesters, and the All Japan Coral Fisheries Association.

The coastal and shallow-sea coral fishermen operate out of Sukumo City, Kochi Prefecture. Although not officially organized, this group had about 100 small vessels ranging from 3 to 10 gross registered tons (GRT) in 1981. This number dropped to about 60 vessels in 1989. Each is usually manned by one fisherman for day-fishing off Tosa City, Kochi Prefecture (eastern Shikoku). The species of coral harvested (in the order of commercial value) are "red" or "oxblood" coral, Corallium japonicum, which is found at 2OO-3OOm; "boke" or dark pink coral, C. elatius, which occurs at 250-400 m; "momo" or peach-pink coral, C. nobile, which is harvested at 150-300m; and " shiro " or white coral, C. konojo, which is found at 100-200 m depths.

A small 2-man submarine and a robot operates out of Tokyo. They are owned by separate Japanese companies and have been harvesting coral since 1983 near the Amami Shoto Islands (lat. 28[degrees]N, long. 130[degrees]E). They harvest the same species as the Sukumo City coral fishermen.

The AH Japan Coral Fisheries Association (JCFA) located in Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture, is comprised of "Midway Deep Sea Coral" fishermen. The "Midway Deep Sea Coral" is believed to be Corallium spp., and its color is light pink with darker spots. It has the lowest commercial value of all Japan's corals. The JCFA harvests the "Midway" coral in the area of about lat 36[degrees]N, long. 171[degrees]E, at depths of up to 1,000 m. The JCFA operated 17 vessels in 1981, each 100 GRT and with a crew of 10- 15 fishermen.

Except for the coral bed located at the above coordinates, there have been no recent discoveries of new coral beds. The JCFA did not send any vessels to the "Midway" coral bed in 1987 and 1988, and only one vessel operated there in 1989. (A coral bed is reportedly fully exploited in 4-5 years.) Alternately, some Association vessels have been harvesting red and pink corals near the Bonin Islands off Tokyo. According to the JCFA, the depletion of the "Midway" coral beds may be the reason why Taiwan's coral fishing fleet in the same area decreased from 40 vessels ( 180-200 GRT) in 1965 to 35 vessels in 1988 and only 32 vessels in 1989.

The 100-GRT JCFA vessels harvest coral primarily by dredging. Dredges consist of concrete weights-about 20 kg each-with embedded rings attached to netting and hauling lines. These are towed over the coral beds breaking off and entangling coral pieces.

The JCFA estimates that the total Japanese harvest of precious corals has decreased from over 55,000 kg in 1982 to only 3,000 kg in 1988 (Table 1). Current average auction prices for corals are: Red coral, 2.5-3.0 million Y/kg (17,857-$21,428/kg); pink coral, 2.0 million Y/kg ($14,285/kg); and Midway deep sea coral, 20,000 Y/kg ($142/kg).

Despite the fact that Japan's harvest of coral has decreased, its annual imports of coral have averaged about 18 t since 1983 (Tables 2, 3). Japan imported 28 t in 1987, valued at over $8 million, up 77 percent by quantity and almost 200 percent by value over 1983 coral imports. Japan's 1988 coral imports, however, fell to 18 t, valued at $4.4 million-about half the value of the 1987 imports. Taiwan has historically been the major supplier of coral to the Japanese market, accounting for about 56 percent of the value of Japan's 1988 coral imports. France, Italy, Spain, and Tunisia also export coral to Japan. (Source: IFR-89/70, prepared by Paul E. Niemeier, Office of International Affairs, NMFS, NOAA, Department of Commerce, Silver Spring, MD 20910.)
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Title Annotation:Foreign Fishery Developments
Publication:Marine Fisheries Review
Date:Sep 22, 1989
Previous Article:Italy-U.S. fish trade, 1981-88.
Next Article:Japanese overseas fisheries aid told.

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