Miyagi coastal whaling port pulverized, little more than memory

AYUKAWA, Miyagi Pref. (Kyodo) A coastal whaling base in Miyagi Prefecture has been virtually destroyed by the powerful tsunami triggered by last Friday’s massive earthquake, which washed away a whale-processing facility.

In the city of Ishinomaki, in the district of Ayukawa on the southern tip of the Oshika Peninsula, tsunami more than 10 meters high traveled around 600 meters inland and swallowed about 80 percent of the around 700 houses in the area.

About 400 of the area’s roughly 1,400 residents remained unaccounted for as of Tuesday, local authorities said.

Ayukawa had prospered as a whaling base, attracting many fishing firms after a whaling company from Yamaguchi Prefecture opened an office there in 1906.

But the number of whaling vessels has declined to just two small ships, compared with 13 in the first half of the 1930s, as International Whaling Commission regulations have slashed whaling quotas.

The two existing vessels, which have been used to catch beaked whales in coastal waters, were scheduled to participate in Japan’s research whaling from April.

However, Chikao Kimura, secretary general of the Japan Small-Type Whaling Association, said, “We cannot say (if the plan is possible) as we have not been able to confirm the safety of some people involved.”

Yoshiya Endo, 72, a former whaler stoker, said: “Whaling is impossible. Reviving it may take 20 to 30 years.”

But a source linked to the industry said the whaling culture should be preserved. “As long as there are people who will carry on whaling even in the absence of vessels or facilities, whaling could be revived eventually.”