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Ishigaki City working to turn fish from Senkakus into a brand

  • August 26, 2021
  • , Sankei , p. 24
  • JMH Translation
  • ,

By Kawase Hiroyuki


A new program is under development in Okinawa’s Ishigaki City to ship products made from fish caught in the waters around the Senkaku Islands nationwide as a “Made in Senkaku” brand. Of late, Japanese fishing activity around the islands has been curtailed due to the presence of a number of Chinese government ships there. A person who is involved in this project says, “We want to rejuvenate the local fishing industry by establishing a local brand.”


The project is spearheaded by Ishigaki City Assembly member Nakama Hitoshi (71), who continues to fish around the Senkakus. The project to build a local brand had been discussed before. But it was not realized, as fish caught in the Senkakus are treated as “a product of Okinawa” after being distributed wholesale to the local fisherman’s association.


But the association has recently purchased a deep-freeze device that allows fish to be kept fresh. Now plans are underway to process fish landed fresh, freeze them using that machine, and directly ship them nationwide under a “Made in the Senkakus” brand.


Now a kobujime product using mamachio snapper (also known as oohime) and kelp is in the final stage of development for commercialization by the end of the year. The distribution method of using the furusato nozei tax donation program is also under consideration.


“This will help protect the waters around the Senkakus, which are part of our territory,” said Nakama.


The waters around the Senkakus are well-known as a rich fishing ground due to the Kuroshio Current. Many fishing boats were operating there since before the the Second World War.


But the situation deteriorated when a Chinese fishing boat rammed Japan Coast Guard (JCG) patrol ships in 2010. Since then China has been sending large government ships to the waters.


Fish catches there have been shrinking as the noise of the screws of the large vessels scare away fish. And other factors, such as high fuel costs, have also discouraged Japanese fishing boats from operating near the Senkakus. According to Nakama, now less than 20 boats are operating in waters near the outcrops.


On the contrary, the presence of Chinese fishing boats is growing.


According to the JCG, 394 foreign ships entered Japanese waters around the Senkakus in 2018, marking the highest number over the past decade. Of the 394, 318 were Taiwanese ships, but that number declined to 104 in 2019 and 59 in 2020. On the other hand, the number of Chinese fishing boats entering waters near the Senkakus increased to 147 in 2019 and 138 in 2020 from 76 in 2018. Through Aug. 24 this year, 80 Chinese ships have been confirmed to be in the waters. The number is increasing.


Since last year, there have been frequent cases of Chinese government ships driving away Japanese fishing boats. “China’s intent to drive away Japanese fishing boats and seize the Senkakus has become more evident,” said Nakama.


People involved in the project hope that once the Senkaku brand is firmly established, “Our fish will be sold at higher prices and if that happens, more Japanese fishing operators will return to the Senkakus.”


In June, Nakama and others carried out crowdfunding by broadcasting live fishing operations near the Senkakus. Beyond their expectations, they received donations from more than 3,200 people.


They are getting feedback from supporters saying they want to eat fish from the Senkakus. “The chances of successfully building a Senkaku brand are high,” said Nakama. “We want many Japanese people to know what is happening in the Senkakus and hope that eating fish from there will help raise people’s awareness of protecting Japanese territory and territorial waters.”

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