Fishing workforce shrinks by 23% in Japan’s disaster zone

Kyodo

Fishery cooperatives in the three northeastern prefectures hit hardest by the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disasters have suffered a 23 percent fall in members, a Kyodo News survey showed Wednesday.

The decline was most pronounced in Miyagi Prefecture, with the number of full members sliding to about two-thirds the level before the disaster.

The survey, covering Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, showed that many in the industry may have let their memberships lapse because they lost their boats or facilities and felt it impossible to rebuild their businesses.

Others may have decided to retire, due to their advanced age or lack of successors, according to officials of local cooperatives.

Moreover, some people failed to meet conditions for full membership because they had to evacuate the area and cannot work the seas as regularly as before.

Members of fishery cooperative associations, which engage in the processing or sale of marine products, are mainly fishermen or operators of small seafood companies. Full membership is given to people who live primarily by fishing.

The survey found that the number of full cooperative association members in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures dropped to about 13,600 in 2015 from about 17,800 in 2010.

By prefecture, the rate of decrease in Iwate stood at about 18 percent over the past five years, while that in Fukushima stood at about 11 percent. In the latter prefecture, areas adjacent to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are still subject to evacuation orders.

Fishing in Fukushima has largely ceased due to the nuclear crisis that contaminated the marine environment, with fishermen currently limiting their catch to a certain type of fish in what are deemed “trial operations.”

The decline in the number of cooperative members in Fukushima has been less sharp than the other two prefectures because membership gives those affected the resources to help their applications for compensation, according to people familiar with the matter.

If financial support is rolled back, the number of cooperative members could sink further, an official of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations said.