Evacuated fishing boats return to home port in Namie town, 1st in 6 years

A total of 26 fishing boats returned to their home port in Namie town, Fukushima Prefecture, on Feb. 25 from Manogawa fishing port in Minamisoma city where they had been moored since the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuring nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant in 2011. The homecoming to Ukedo fishing port after a hiatus of about six years followed progress in port restoration work that enabled the use of a pier where boats dock. The boats will set sail from the home port for test fishing in the months ahead. With an evacuation order issued after the accident set to be lifted in parts of the town on March 31, returning evacuees are expected to begin lively activities in the near future. The return of the fishing boats marks a step ahead toward building a new town. Ukedo port is located about 7 kilometers north of the crippled nuclear plant on the Pacific coast. Before the disaster, local fishermen used to haul about 1,600 tons of fish a year, including “kounago” young lance fish, “shirasu” whitebait, salmon and flounder, all traded at high prices in Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market and other places. But the port was heavily damaged by massive tsunami caused by the 2011 quake. Reconstruction work has been undertaken on embankments and port facilities. From now on, additional work, including on the restoration of a freight-handling area, is to be conducted to pave the way for full-fledged fishing. The 26 boats belong to fishermen in Namie and Minamisoma’s Odaka district. Before returning, they engaged in test fishing after sailing out of Manogawa and other ports. Given the imminent partial termination of evacuation in Namie where Ukedo port is situated, the fishermen decided to return home in a bid to fuel the momentum of hometown reconstruction starting with fisheries. A test fishing committee of the Soma-Futaba Fisheries Cooperative Association, which comprises fishermen in the prefecture’s northern half of the coastal region, has decided to expand the test operation area from waters outside a 20-kilometer radius of the Fukushima Daiichi plant to a semicircular zone 10 to 20 kilometers off the facility. Test fishing of kounago is expected to begin in the area in mid-March, with 16 boats from Ukedo port scheduled to join. (Translated by Kyodo News)