Tax donations for Yamagata city’s squid fleet surge amid North Korean threat

JIJI

A request by the city of Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture, for furusato nōzei (hometown tax donation) contribution to support squid boats in the Sea of Japan has drawn a resoundingly positive response amid Japan’s growing security concerns.

According to the Sakata Municipal Government, over ¥10 million — twice the target — has already been collected via the system, which lets people make donations to the governments of their choice to qualify for tax deductions.

City officials said the plight of its squid fishermen is believed to have attracted public attention in light of concerns in their areas of operation linked to provocative North Korea.

Every June, 11 boats leave the Port of Sakata for about eight months of squid fishing.

After they set out this year, the fishermen were forced to grapple with several incidents in their fishing areas, including the threat of North Korean missiles falling hitting them and the presence of poachers believed to be from the isolated country.

In July, a crew member of what appeared to be a North Korean vessel illegally in Japanese waters pointed what was believed to be a rifle at a Fisheries Agency patrol ship.

After that, the Yamagata Prefecture fisheries cooperative association and other bodies urged the central government to devise countermeasures.

The Sakata Municipal Government invited donations in August, calling for people to “come together to support the squid-fishing fleet operating at sea.”

It used “government crowdfunding,” a mechanism in which towns, cities and prefectures seek donations via the internet through the furusato nozei system.

The donations reached the target of ¥5.35 million by the end of August and have since surpassed ¥10 million with weeks yet to go before the project’s end-of-December deadline.

The donations will be used mainly to construct a simple bathing facility for fishermen in the port and pay for rental vehicles they use for trips downtown to relax and shop during port calls.

The sharp rise in donations came after the municipal government collected only about 20 percent of its target during a one-month campaign in May, before the squid fleet launched.

“The financial support is really good news,” said Sakari Nishimura, a 50-year-old official at the Yamagata fisheries cooperative. “We hope that the donations will improve the fishermen’s living environment at a time when it is difficult for them to engage in fishing with peace of mind.”

Donations are being accepted at the furusato nozei system’s portal site at: www.furusato-tax.jp/gcf/190