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Japan is expected to extend its streak of poor saury catches this year as changes in the maritime environment exacerbate the issue.

This year’s hauls are expected to come in below last year’s, which set a record for lowest volume.

The fish, was once commonly available as a low-priced autumn delicacy, is expected to become in increasingly uncommon site on Japanese dining tables, with prices likely to shoot up at supermarkets and other stores nationwide this year.

According to the government-affiliated Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency, the number of saury migrating to waters around Japan is seen declining due to an increase in sardines, which feed on the same items.

“It is highly likely that saury catches will fall below those of last year,” Satoshi Suyama, the agency’s chief researcher, said.

The competition for food will lead to many saury weighing around 100 grams, or more than 10 percent lighter than last year. In addition, the peak for catches is expected to be in mid-to-late October, or around a month later than average.

Saury catches usually start to spike in late August, but fishing is already underway in Hokkaido, where one of the season’s first catches sold for some ¥40,000 per kilogram in July at an auction in Kushiro, driving store prices as high as ¥5,980 per fish.

Saury catches have been on the decline in the past few years. In 2008 and 2009, catches topped 300,000 tons before plummeting to a record low of only 45,800 tons in 2019.

One of the reasons is that Chinese and Taiwanese fishing boats get a head start on saury before they start migrating toward Japan.

The Fisheries Agency wants to call on countries and regions fishing for saury in the Pacific Ocean to limit their catches. But the effort has been set back by the coronavirus pandemic, which caused an international convention on fishery resources management scheduled for June to be postponed. An alternative date has not been set yet.

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