Fishermen’s strike sliced Tsukiji stocks 20%, raised prices

Kyodo News

Supplies at Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo dropped 20 percent to 401 tons Wednesday in the wake of Tuesday’s one-day nationwide strike by fishermen, prompting wholesalers to warn further strikes would seriously disrupt supply, market officials said.

“Prices of some fish went up by about 10 percent” due to supply decreases, a market source said after the Tokyo institution held its morning auctions.

Such fish included flatfish and sea bream from coastal waters, which are often used by upscale sushi shops.

The strike, which was held by hundreds of thousands of fishermen upset with the rising cost of marine diesel, bit into supplies, especially of coastal flatfish, squid and sea bream, the officials said.

“Saba” (mackerel), squid and bonito stocks halved, while those of “aji” (horse mackerel) fell by about 10 percent, they said.

But participants at Tsukiji’s famous morning auctions saw prices fall generally due to a lack of buying interest as middlemen held back from active bidding, as if anticipating the negative effects of the strike.

Fish that dropped included aji, saba, squid and bonito.

Although Tsukiji’s auctions usually last 20 to 30 minutes, the auctions on Wednesday wrapped up in around five minutes.

The strike prompted a rare news conference by representatives of wholesalers and middlemen, who warned that a longer halt would trigger a supply disruption, though they limited the impact of Tuesday’s strike by securing supplies beforehand in light of the fishermen’s warnings.

“The Tsukiji market would certainly undergo turmoil if fishermen repeatedly held strikes lasting two or three days,” Kenji Tanaka, president of the Hayashida Suisan marine products company, said at the news conference.

He called on fishermen to be careful when considering whether to strike again.

The National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations and 16 other fishing industry bodies launched a strike involving some 200,000 boats Tuesday to protest fuel price increases.

Retailers Daiei Inc. and Ito-Yokado Inc. said they counteracted fresh fish supply cutbacks by putting more frozen shrimp, hatchery fish and dried fish on their shelves.

Price hikes in fishery products amid possible further supply shortages are also expected to affect the catering industry.

Colowide Co., which operates a chain of “izakaya” (pubs), said it will need to consider raising prices in the future, although it has no plans to hike prices now.

A sushi restaurant chain in Sendai, on the other hand, said it is unlikely to be able to pass the higher purchasing costs on to consumers.