Catches of juvenile Japanese eels have been extremely low in the current fishing season, raising concerns among eel farmers.
Baby eel catches in December are believed to have totaled only 0.2 ton, down sharply from a year before, according to the Fisheries Agency.
If the situation continues, catches in the 2018 season — which runs from last month to April — may slip below the record low of 5.2 tons in the 2013 season.
Baby eel, also known as glass eel or elvers, are caught in 24 prefectures including Kagoshima, Miyazaki and Shizuoka.
In Kagoshima, baby eel catches in the first 15 days of the 2018 season from Dec. 10 came to 0.5 kg, or just 1 percent of the level seen a year earlier.
Catches remain very low in January, an official at the prefecture’s resource management division said.
The Japanese eel, or Anguilla japonica, which is at risk of extinction, spawn in waters west of the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean, about 2,000 km from Japan.
Annual glass eel catches topped 200 tons in the 1960s. Recently, the volume has been around 15 tons.
According to the agency, most eel farmers raise the fish for more than a year.
Retail eel prices are likely to surge in the summer and later.