2 Arrested for Failing to Report Full Bluefin Tuna Catch

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Aomori prefectural police headquarters in Aomori City

AOMORI — Two fisheries company presidents were arrested Tuesday in Oma, Aomori Prefecture, for failing to report part of their catch of bluefin tuna to the prefectural government.

They have admitted to charges of violating the Fisheries Law, according to the Aomori prefectural police.

According to investigators, Tadaaki Nitta, 47, president of Uochu, and Kazumi Sasaki, 61, head of Saihoku Suisan, conspired with fishermen from the town of Oma and failed to report to the prefectural government a total of about 18 tons of bluefin tuna caught off the coast of the prefecture and other areas from July to September 2021. The police are also investigating about 20 fishermen who allegedly sold the tuna to the two, on suspicion of the same charges.

Yomiuri Shimbun photos
Right: Kazumi Sasaki is seen on his way to be questioned by the police in Oma, Aomori Prefecture, on Tuesday morning.
Left: Tadaaki Nitta is seen attending a police search in Oma, Aomori Prefecture, on Tuesday morning.

Bluefin tuna from Oma are sold at high prices as a luxury foodstuff. The police believe the two men illegally distributed the fish that exceeded the legal catch quotas, and failed to report nearly 100 tons of the catch to the prefecture in fiscal 2021 alone.

As this was equivalent to almost one-seventh of the catch quota initially allocated to the prefecture, police decided to arrest the two men.

Pacific bluefin tuna stocks plunged due to excessive fishing, and their catch is strictly controlled internationally. Japan obliges fishermen and others to report their catch, setting a specific catch quota for each prefecture. The Oma Fisheries Cooperative measures and reports the catch to the prefecture. But the two men are suspected to have bought the fish directly from fishermen without going through the cooperative, selling them on to a marine product wholesaler in Shizuoka Prefecture.

The prefectural police searched the homes of both suspects on Tuesday morning and asked them to voluntarily report to police for questioning at around 8 a.m.