Japan’s Fisheries Agency eyes high-tech industry update

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Bonitos are landed in Makurazaki, Kagoshima Prefecture, in May 2022.

The Fisheries Agency plans to dispatch tech experts to fishing villages and related locations across the country in fiscal 2023 to promote digitization within the fishing industry.

A new online portal will centralize information, with the agency acting as a bridge between people within the industry and IT specialists.

The move is aimed at updating traditional fishing methods, which often rely on intuition and experience, and enhancing productivity using high-tech.

More than 50 individuals and organizations, including IT firms and electronic manufacturers, are expected to register with the portal site. In fiscal 2023, the agency will invite applications from the private sector to form a secretariat to manage the site.

The secretariat will liaise with people and areas that are open to digitization and dispatch experts to industry front lines. The agency aims for the portal site to be freely accessible and will strive to spread word of its efforts to help digitize the fishing business.

The agency also is weighing training sessions for IT experts to acquaint them with the basics of the fishing industry and plans to incorporate related costs in its budgetary requests for fiscal 2023.

As an example of digitization within the industry, artificial intelligence can be used to predict the richest fishing grounds and relate the information to fishermen via smartphone.

Another scenario is using monitors to relay fish-catch data to markets using image-analyzing technology installed on fishing boats. If information on hauls is shared in advance with markets, it will be possible to expedite the bidding process and make it easier to prepare transportation.

By using QR codes, it is possible to manage fish-catch histories, processing and sales in an integrated manner. As a result, it is expected that it will be easier for areas to improve their respective brand images.

The fishing industry is suffering from a severe labor shortage and falling catches. In 2020, 135,660 people were working in the industry, down about 40% from 2008. Workers age 65 and older accounted for about 40% of the 2020 figure, highlighting the issue of aging within the industry.

Data for 2020 shows that production within the fishing and aquaculture industries had fallen to one-third that of the peak year, 1984.

The Fisheries Agency hopes that its digitization efforts will help increase profits and attract more young people to the fishing industry.