Fukushima fisheries leader urges early resumption of full offshore operations

A top leader of the fisheries industry in Fukushima Prefecture called on Feb. 27 for a switch from the current practice of test fishing to full-fledged operations in the Pacific off the region's coast within the 2020 fiscal year beginning on April 1. "We would like to launch full operations within the new fiscal year, starting with whatever we can, including with catching specific fish species," Tetsu Nozaki, head of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations, told reporters following a meeting of member union heads held in Iwaki city. Nozaki said he will urge member cooperatives to step up discussions among themselves on the fish species to be caught, operating sea areas and timing of full commercial operations, suspended since the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The federation launched talks last year on the terms of resumption of full fishing activities and other conditions, seeing the need to promote preparations amid the expanding scope of fish species covered by test operations. The central government's Nuclear Emergency Headquarters lifted a shipment ban on "komon kasube," a kind of skate, on Feb. 25, enabling local fishermen to ship all species to the market and prompting Nozaki to mention full operations. Commenting on his remarks, the leader of a member cooperative said it is too early to begin full operations. "I think it may be difficult to operate on a full scale as the number of brokers has become fewer (since the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear disaster)," said Kanji Tachiya, who heads the Soma-Futaba Fisheries Cooperative Association. "It is necessary to examine the issue step by step, including how to reconstruct the crippled distribution system." "We have a lot of challenges yet to be overcome in view of our voluntary restraint on fishing still exercised in waters within a radius of 10 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, among other things," said Akira Egawa, head of the Iwaki Fisheries Cooperative Association. "There are many problems yet to be resolved from now on. It is tough to undertake full operations under the current circumstances." Test fishing off the coast of Fukushima has been underway since 2012 by imposing restrictions on the number of fishing days, operating zones and fish species caught among other factors. The annual haul from test operations in 2019 was about 14% of the level before the disaster. In the immediate future, talks at each cooperative's test-fishing committee are expected to get into full swing toward the resumption of full operations. (Translated by Kyodo News)