From: The Yomiuri Shimbun
Published November 29, 2004 12:00 AM

Anglers Want to Remove Black Bass from List of Threats to Japan's Ecosystems

TOKYO - Industry groups and lawmakers have begun lobbying to remove black bass from a list contained in a new law that targets nonindigenous species believed to be damaging the country's native species and ecosystem.


But conservation groups have protested, saying the delisting of black bass would virtually invalidate the law.


The Environment Ministry formed a subcommittee Friday to discuss whether to delist black bass. But it is uncertain whether a conclusion can be reached before the law, promulgated in June this year, is scheduled to take effect next June.


The law bans nonindigenous wild animals from being imported, bred and released in Japan, and in extreme circumstances, allows the extermination of species deemed a threat to the ecosystem and agricultural industry.


The Environment Ministry has been selecting the species to be covered by the law.


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The black bass on the increase in Japan are both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, both originally from North America. Largemouth bass are popular among anglers, and can be found in lakes and freshwater across the country, except for Okinawa Prefecture.


The species was secretly released in the waters amid the rise in angling, but has caused serious environmental problems, including black bass feeding on indigenous crucian carp and Japanese bitterlings.


An influx of North American raccoons has posed a threat to the agricultural industry, and nonnative beetles popular among insect collectors and traded for high price are also considered to be new threats to the ecosystem.


Although fishing for black bass would not be regulated under the law even if the species itself were covered, the Japan Sportfishing Association -- made up of fishing equipment manufacturers -- has strongly lobbied to have black bass removed from the list.


According to the association, about 3 million people fish for black bass -- a market worth about 100 billion yen.


Taking into account the substantial economic impact, the Environment Ministry decided to reconsider the listing of largemouth bass and established a committee Friday for the purpose.


The association argued that the decline in native species was because of water pollution and so called for the exemption of black bass from the list of animals subject to regulation.


A fishing federation formed by bipartisan lawmakers argued that black bass fishing could be valuable in educating people about the importance of life as most bass caught were released back into the water.


For the law to be enacted in June, the list must be ready by January and also requires ruling party and Cabinet approval. It is uncertain whether the conclusion will be reached on time.


Some experts predict that black bass will be taken off the list due to political pressure.


The Nature Conservation Society of Japan has listed 354 species it wanted to be regulated by the law.


Fewer than 40 species--including the North American raccoon and smallmouth bass -- were expected to be listed in the category that requires urgent attention. Nonnative stag beetles and North American red ear turtles are also expected to be removed from the list since they are bred widely, a move that is drawing protests from conservation groups.


Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News


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