Japan, China and the seven other members of the North Pacific Fisheries Commission have agreed to cut their combined saury catch quota by about 25 percent from last year to 250,000 tons a year to address depleted stocks.

Miwako Takase of Japan's Fisheries Agency is pictured at a press conference in Sapporo, northern Japan, in the small hours of  March 25, 2023. (Kyodo)

The new catch limit, which was decided at the end of a three-day meeting through Friday in Sapporo, will be in place for two years. While the parties agreed on a 40 percent cut from the previous year in 2021 and kept the quota at 333,750 tons in 2022, Tokyo had proposed halving it to 170,000 tons amid historically poor catches.

Even after the latest change, the quota still far exceeds the actual amount of saury caught by commission members Japan, Canada, China, the European Union, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States and Vanuatu.

"This is a fishing quota based on scientific grounds. While this is not enough, we were able to take a step toward reinforcing the resource," said Miwako Takase of Japan's Fisheries Agency in a press conference early Saturday.

Of the combined quota for the nine members for 2021 and 2022, 198,000 tons were allocated for high seas and 135,750 tons for exclusive economic zones of Japan and Russia. Under the new agreement, they were lowered to 150,000 tons, down 24 percent, and 100,000 tons, down 26 percent, respectively.

Participants also agreed to either slash the number of saury vessels by 10 percent from 2018 levels or set a 180-day season and ban on fishing outside that period.

The members first agreed to introduce the saury fishing quota in 2019 and decided to cut the combined quota by 40 percent in 2021 as well as those for the high seas and Japan-Russia EEZs. The same quotas were applied in 2022.

Japan's actual catch in 2022 stood at record-low 18,000 tons, while Taiwan and China in 2021 reported their catch declined about 40 percent and 24 percent from the previous year, respectively.

The annual meeting was originally scheduled for March last year but was postponed due to Russia's war in Ukraine.