The Cabinet on May 25 endorsed a white book on fisheries for fiscal 2011. As the white book points out, it is important to revitalize fisheries in the Pacific coastal areas of the Tohoku region, which greatly suffered from the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent Fukushima nuclear crisis. Reviving the fisheries will not only help strengthen local economies in the region but also help to stabilize the supply of fishery products for the entire nation.

It is hoped that the government will provide necessary support to fishermen who are striving to revitalize the fisheries.

As of March 5, 2012, Japan’s fisheries suffered disaster-related losses amounting to ¥1.263 trillion. Some 29,000 fishing boats were seriously damaged, but by April about 8,400 of them were repaired. In March, fishing catches in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures rebounded to some 17,000 tons or 78 percent of the level in March 2011. The monetary value of the month’s catch was ¥2.2 billion, or 84 percent of the March 2011 level. In addition, about half of the 831 damaged fisheries products processing facilities in the three prefectures were restored.

But against this brightening backdrop, dark clouds remain. The monetary value of the fishing harvest in Fukushima Prefecture in March was zero because the ongoing nuclear disaster continues to make fishing unfeasible for the prefecture’s coastal fishermen.

The annual report paid attention to efforts by fishermen to strengthen their ties with consumers as an important step to revitalize Japan’s fisheries. In Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, where most fishing farms and fishing boats were lost in the disasters, the local oyster farming cooperative in September 2011 started an investment scheme in which consumers across the nation buy shares to become oyster owners — with one share set at ¥5,000 and ¥1,000 of it used by the cooperative as support money. Some 2,100 shares were sold. In March, oysters were sent to the investors.

The white book also featured such efforts by fishing cooperatives to open restaurants, supply fishery products for school lunches, process fisheries products traditionally regarded as having no market value and let tourists stay in the homes of fishermen. If people in urban areas become interested in fisheries, a change in their food consumption could help revive Japan’s fisheries.

While the damage the 3/11 disasters inflicted on Japan’s fisheries was severe, over-fishing remains the greater problem. Japan’s fishing harvest peaked at 12.8 million tons in 1984, but dropped to 5.31 million tons by 2011. The government must pass measures to restrict over-fishing and provide support to fishing cooperatives that make efforts to properly manage the nation’s ocean resources.

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