• Kyodo

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The farm ministry began briefing Nagasaki Prefecture on Thursday about its plan to open Isahaya Bay’s floodgates for about two months to find out why the area has been suffering poor seaweed harvests.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry hopes to end its battle with the local government, which does not want the gates opened, by as early as next week. The floodgates are part of a controversial land-reclamation project.

Mitsuhiro Miyakoshi, the ministry’s parliamentary secretary, and other ministry officials met Nagasaki Gov. Genjiro Kaneko and other officials at the prefecture.

The ministry officials presented a letter from farm minister Tsutomu Takebe calling on the prefecture to acknowledge the need for the gates to be opened.

“A short-term survey with the gates open will be indispensable (to check the theory that the project has caused the poor nori harvest),” Takebe said in the letter.

The ministry wants to open the gates by mid-April because it wants to end its probe by sometime in June to avoid the floods caused by the rainy season. The ministry is therefore accelerating its efforts to convince locals to accept the plan.

The ministry officials also held a separate explanatory session in Isahaya, Nagasaki Prefecture, involving officials from nine municipalities along Isahaya Bay.

Isahaya Bay is part of the Ariake Sea, a nearly landlocked body of water encircled by Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Saga and Fukuoka prefectures.

The bay is the site of a reclamation project to create farmland and a large reservoir surrounded by a 7,050-meter-long dike. The dike’s floodgates were closed in 1997 to keep out seawater and facilitate reclamation work.

In December, an advisory panel to the farm ministry recommended studying the environmental impact of opening the gates in preparation for a proposed three-stage survey that would cover periods of around two months, six months and several years.

Local fishermen, except for those from Nagasaki Prefecture, claim the reclamation project, which resumed in January despite their strong opposition, has destroyed the ecosystem in the Ariake Sea and resulted in poor harvests of nori.

However, Nagasaki fishermen and the prefectural government support the project and are objecting to the opening of the floodgates, arguing that the resulting mix of seawater and silt could damage existing fishing grounds.

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