Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Justin McCurry, David McNeill, "Japan's king of fish faces extinction," Japan Focus, January 1, 2009.

Justin McCurry & David McNeill talk to fishermen in the north and south of the country and find widespread alarm at depleted tuna stocks.

On a gloomy day pregnant with rain and the weight of past expectations, Nakamura Minoru is welcomed back to port in Iki-shi like a conquering hero. Three family generations, including Nakamura’s father Toshiaki and newborn child Misaki wait ashore, smiles wide as his boat sails into harbor. “Good for him,” says a beaming Okubo Terutaka, head of the local fishing cooperative. “That’s wonderful to see.”

  "The smaller tuna have all been caught, along with the fish they feed on, and unregulated fishing with trawlers is to blame."
Sasaki Atsushi

On this remote island off Nagasaki in southern Japan, where rusting boats wait for fishermen who increasingly stay at home, few sights excite more than Nakamura’s precious cargo: a 172-kg bluefin tuna, splayed across the deck of his small trawler. Dubbed Japan’s King of Fish, at peak prices his single catch will fetch over 1.5 million yen, or nearly $16,000 at the world’s biggest fish market in Tsukiji, Tokyo.

By the time it is carved up and sold as thousands of sushi, sashimi and steak cuts to restaurants across the city, it will be worth at least three times that much -- the price of a luxury family car. In 2001, a 202-kg fish caught off Oma, a town of 6,000 people of the northern coast of Aomori Prefecture famous for producing the tastiest tuna in Japan, a single bluefin sold for a record 20.2 million yen.

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