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Fish consumption in Japan is showing signs of recovering thanks to education targeted at young people and demand among people staying at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Per capita seafood consumption in the country fell to 23.8 kilograms in fiscal 2019 from its peak of 40.2 kg 18 years earlier, according to the Fisheries Agency, but industry officials see the start of positive trend with the amount of seafood purchased in 2020 ticking up.

Seafood consumption fell below meat consumption around 10 years ago and the gap has since been widening. The time-consuming cooking process often required for seafood has contributed to that trend.

Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology started offering a course on seafood culture in fiscal 2017 to promote consumption among young people.

The course teaches the history of seafood and region-by-region cooking methods.

The course also gives students cooking experience. "Only 30% of students are able to fillet a fish, but they are enjoying cooking," professor Lou Xiaobo said.

Another example of educational efforts is an annual event in which high school students compete using recipes and dishes featuring local ingredients.

Many prize-winning dishes used seafood in the past, with some eventually sold at convenience stores.

"Last year's event had many recipes using local specialties, including sea bream from Ehime Prefecture," said Shiho Fujita, head of the event's organizer.

"We hope as many high school students as possible will take part this year, too," she said. The final for the event will be held in Tokyo in late November.

The pandemic is also giving a boost to fish consumption in Japan thanks to demand among people staying at home.

Seafood purchased by households with two or more members averaged 23.9 kg in 2020, marking the first rise in 18 years, according to the internal affairs ministry.

The purchased fish included varieties that take time to turn into a dish, including horse mackerel, mackerel and flounder, giving a ray of hope to the fisheries industry.

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