Oil spill damaging region’s tourism

MIKUNI, Fukui Pref. — After shattering the hopes of local fishermen for a good catch this season, the oil spill from a wrecked Russian tanker has also started to hurt this region’s tourism industry.Mikuni’s nationally renown Tojimbo district, with its spectacular cliffs and views of the Sea of Japan coastline, now faces a decline in visitors due to the oil being washed up on its beaches. Souvenir shop workers in the district are especially concerned about the town’s image, and to what degree it will be blackened by the spill.Shuichi Yamano, owner of the largest souvenir store in the district, said, “The incident has made the town notorious for the slick (more than the cliffs).”As a store dealing mainly in fresh local marine products, such as crab and shrimp, Yamano said the oil spill may damage the image of his products, just as the outbreak of O-157 E. coli bacteria food poisoning did to fresh vegetables last summer. Insisting on the need to improve such negative images, Yamano said both fishery cooperatives and wholesalers must be careful in dealing with marine products.Noburo Dojo, chairman of the Mikuni Tourism Association, said he fears the oil spill may destroy local tourism, and that sensational media coverage may deliver a further blow to the town’s image. “Not all the coastal areas here have been covered with oil,” Dojo stressed. “Such deep-sea fish as crab, shrimp and sea bream were not at all affected.”As for the badly affected coastal fishing products, which constitute about 80 percent of the goods at his store, Yamano said it is a “matter of life and death” to his business. Even if one shrimp in a million is tainted with oil and put on the market, Yamano said his business would be ruined.A sales assistant at a nearby souvenir store said she is more concerned about the long-term effect the disaster may have on the local tourism industry, rather than the immediate problem. She said some regular customers at the store have already called to inform her they will stop placing orders for local sea food. Since earlier this week when the first tide of the slick washed ashore, few visitors have come to the Tojimbo district, she said at the deserted shopping center.