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Consumers in Japan are likely to face higher prices for “sanma” Pacific saury, a popular autumn fish, as an extremely poor catch is anticipated this year, according to data released by the Fisheries Agency.

The agency said Tuesday that reserves of saury in the Northwest Pacific in 2010 are estimated at 2.21 million tons, down from 3.51 million tons last year and from a peak of 8 million tons in 2003.

The agency said the reasons for the plunge are unclear, but some industry officials attributed it to abnormal weather, including the scorching summer.

Pacific saury catches in drift-net fishing that started off the eastern coast of Hokkaido on July 8 landed a total of 421 tons at Kushiro and three other ports on the coast in the month, compared with 1,726 tons in the corresponding period of last year, a local fishery association said.

Pacific saury fishing gets fully under way between August and December.

Reflecting the poor catch, the median wholesale price of fresh Pacific saury at Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market stood at ¥1,260 per kg in the final week of July, up nearly ¥500 from a year earlier.

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