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The city of Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture, is working to attract young people with no experience in the fishing business and nurture them to become fishers who can operate independently with their own ships.

Genta Okasaka, 27, who moved to the city from Marugame, Kagawa Prefecture, started working as a trainee in August on a fishing ship operating in a bay in the city’s Nishiura district.

The program is part of a project to support new fishers, launched by the Gamagori Municipal Government and the local fisheries cooperative using government subsidies.

Okasaka will be paid a monthly allowance of ¥250,000 during the training period, which lasts for a maximum of three years.

The program is rare in that it is aimed at training young people to become independent, rather than employed, fishers.

Okasaka, who was chosen from seven candidates who applied for the program, had an interest in the fishing business although he grew up in an unrelated environment.

After working at various places including a shipyard and a saltworks, he started visiting career support fairs held nationwide for those wishing to work in the fisheries industry.

At one of the fairs, an official he consulted advised him that if he really wanted to become a professional fisherman, he should get trained in the Sea of Japan or the Pacific rather than in the Seto Inland Sea near his hometown. Then he found the program in Gamagori and applied.

The fisherman who trains him is Keita Urata, 37, who himself trained under the program when it was launched and became independent in 2017.

Urata, a native of Nishio in Aichi Prefecture who used to work for a company, now serves as the captain of the small bottom trawling fishing ship Ayatsukimaru. He decided to accept a trainee on his ship because he wanted to increase the number of young fishers from his own generation.

Since Okasaka does not yet have a license to operate ships, he works with Urata aboard his vessel, helping him with tasks such as sorting out fish.

Although an increase in the fish catch won’t be reflected in his allowance, Okasaka says, “I feel happy when I see Urata looking excited.”

While he is struggling to get used to his new life of getting up early in the morning and becoming seasick, Okasaka said he is being encouraged by working with Urata who also experienced being a fisherman as an outsider in the district.

But Okasaka is worried as to whether he can find a fishing ship when his three-year training period is over.

When Urata became independent, he was able to obtain a fishing permit and a second-hand ship from a retired fisherman in the Nishimikawa district of Aichi with the backing of a local fisheries cooperative. But there is no guarantee Okasaka can obtain a ship in a similar way.

As for the fishing permit, the Aichi Prefectural Government is expected to change its policy for issuing new permits after the revised Fisheries Act takes effect in December.

The prefectural government has long been refraining from issuing new fishing permits for the sake of protecting marine resources, and the only way for new fishers to get a permit has been to obtain one from those who are retiring.

Under the new system, the prefectural government will set a quota for each of the different types of fishing permits issued by the governor according to specific types of fishing gear and will issue a new permit in response to an application if a quota is not filled.

Although details are yet to be decided, “we will be issuing permits giving priority to those who have experience working as a fishing ship crew member,” said an official from the prefectural government’s fisheries division.

According to the division, the new quotas are likely to be set based on the total number of permits issued as of Aug. 1, 2019, which means if people who retired after that date returned the permits, there might be some vacancies.

The new system is likely to make it easier for those who are not succeeding the family’s fishing business to get started in the fishing industry, although there remain other hurdles such as the initial cost of purchasing ships.

On the other hand, in order to attract more young people to the fishing business, it is inevitable for the fishing industry and local governments to provide opportunities working aboard ships like in the case of Gamagori.

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Oct. 3.

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