Fall in Japan has always been the season for oily fish. They are considered to be at their peak when the waters turn cold and the fish put on fat to prepare for the winter. The Pacific saury (sanma) is so closely associated with this season that the three kanji characters for it mean “fall sword fish.”

However, in recent years the Pacific saury catch has been falling precipitously. Last year’s numbers were the lowest ever recorded, and the catch this year even worse, as little as 10 percent of 2019’s numbers during the same period. The mackerel catch, too, has been very low. One big reason is the rising temperature of the seas around Japan and worldwide, a consequence of the climate crisis.

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