Japan, one of the world’s biggest consumers of eels, has just released data that the total imports of eels coming from China and Taiwan have drastically decreased from September 2012 to May this year. According to Japan’s Trade Ministry data, Japan imported some 2,549 tons of eels in the aforementioned time period, showing a sharp decline of around 35 percent less from a year earlier.
Japan also imports processed eels, with broiled eels especially popular. The import numbers of those also decreased by 41 percent to 5,482 tons, according to numbers from Japan’s Finance Ministry. According to government data, around 40,000 tons of eels were consumed in Japan in 2012. Of that total, over 65% were imports in the form of adult eels and processed ones. Almost all of Japan’s supply of imported eels comes from either China or Taiwan.
The decline in numbers is systemic enough for authorities to start thinking that figures may indicate a general decline of eel resources not only in Japan but also in the rest of East Asia. Experts say that countries who export eels, like China and Taiwan, may have to start thinking of how to better manage eel resources. But a more pertinent question – and one that has actually been continually asked by many countries of Japan regarding various aquatic resources like whale meat and the consumption of bluefin tuna – is that will Japan ever have a concept of limiting consumption of such resources, so that the relationship between product and consumer is one with awareness, and not just one where importing countries are seen just as suppliers to Japan for what it needs in its dinner tables?