‘Senkaku’ label gives bigeye tuna new cachet in Tsukiji


Staff Writer

The Senkaku territorial row may be hurting the economies of Japan and China, but at least one company is making money out of it.

At the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, wholesaler Tohto Suisan Co. has since July tagged three bigeye tuna caught near the disputed islets as being from “Okinawa’s Senkaku Islands.”

By simply changing the label, the tuna fetched ¥500 per kilogram more than the usual price, although it tastes no different than bigeye caught elsewhere, according to Tadashi Denuma of Tohto Suisan.

“Several bidders came specifically to buy that ‘Senkaku’ tuna. . . . It had quite an impact, because it was shortly after Ishihara announced his plan,” Denuma told The Japan Times on Monday, referring to then-Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s intention, announced in April, to purchase three of the uninhabited islets, which Japan controls but China and Taiwan claim.

The wholesaler has sold three bigeye tuna caught around the Senkakus and plans to continue labeling them as such, Denuma said.

“I’ve heard that fishermen (from Ishigaki, Okinawa) have difficulty catching tuna due to the rapid ocean current. And some don’t go (near the Senkakus) because they fear they will (encounter) Chinese vessels,” Denuma said.

In a similar move, the Yaeyama fishing cooperative on Ishigaki Island registered “Senkaku tuna” as a trademark in August, hoping to establish a brand and eventually fetch a higher price to offset rising fuel costs.