The cheap yen caused by the Abe administration’s economic policy, which is centered on the Bank of Japan’s massive monetary easing, has led to price rises on imported items. Fishermen especially are suffering from rises in fuel oil prices. Because wholesalers and volume sellers basically control the prices for fishery products in most cases, it is difficult for fishermen to pass on their higher costs to consumers.
The government must become fully aware of the difficult situation in which Japan’s fishing industry finds itself and take necessary measures. At the same time, fishing cooperatives across the nation should make their own efforts to overcome this situation.
It is said that recent fuel cost increases have affected the fishing industry three to five times more severely than the taxi and trucking industries. Some fishermen have been forced to stop fishing temporarily and others permanently.
On April 26 and 27, some 1,500 squid fishing boats throughout the country were forced to suspend fishing. Squid fishermen sharply feel the effect of fuel cost rises caused by the cheap yen since they have to use fish-lure lights during night operations. Fuel costs account for some 30 percent of the total operating costs for a squid fishing boat.
On May 29, more than 2,000 fishermen took part in a rally at Tokyo’s Hibiya Park, sponsored by JF Zengyoren or the National Federation of Japan Fisheries Co-operatives. They demonstrated around the Diet Building, calling on the government to take emergency measures to help them. They brought home their plight, saying the current situation makes it difficult for them to continue fishing despite their desire to bring fresh fish to consumers.
Since the rise of fuel oil costs in 2008, Japanese fishermen have made efforts to save fuel by cruising fishing boats at a lower speed and using fish-lure lights at a lower level of brightness. They succeeded in cutting fuel oil costs by 24 percent, but recent increases in fuel prices have wiped out the effects of their efforts.
In view of the decreases in fishing resources around Japan and the shortage of young people who want to be fishermen, some government measures are necessary. Until 30 years ago, Japan boasted the world’s biggest fishing catch. In terms of catch, Japan is now No. 4 after China, Indonesia and India in that order.
Because oil prices are unlikely to fall anytime soon, fishermen need to reduce their fuel consumption. Efforts should include the use of energy efficient LEDs for lighting, the replacement of old fishing boats with new ones that are more fuel efficient and the addition of auxiliary sails so wind power can be utilized when possible. The government should provide assistance.
Fishing cooperatives also should make efforts to publicize their fishing products and sell them directly to consumers. The Internet can be of great help in this aspect. They also should carry out a campaign to have Japanese consumers eat more fish caught locally.