In an attempt to restore fisheries in the Tohoku region devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the government on Oct. 15 decided to allow new private enterprises to engage in coastal fishery farming if certain conditions are met. It plans to submit a related bill to the current Diet session. The proposed idea will be only applied to coastal fishery farming in “special restoration zones.”
The total damage to Tohoku’s fisheries from the tsunami is estimated at 1.2 trillion yen. The proposal is based on the idea originally put forward by Gov. Yoshihiro Murai of Miyagi Prefecture, whose fisheries suffered damage amounting to 690 billion yen.
Under the current fisheries law, fishing cooperatives can veto the entry of new enterprises into coastal fishery farming. Under the proposal, an enterprise will be given the same priority as a fishing cooperative with regard to farming rights if either of the following two conditions is met: Seven or more local fishermen are either employees or shareholders of the enterprise or more than 70 percent of the local fishing households are either employees or shareholders of the enterprise. If both a fishing cooperative and an eligible enterprise ask for fishery farming rights, a prefectural governor will decide which should get the rights by considering which will better contribute to the restoration of aquaculture.
Although the restoration of aquaculture is the key to a quick recovery of Tohoku fisheries, many aquaculture workers were killed by the tsunami. The survivors are not large in number and cannot easily carry out a restoration on their own. Miyagi Prefecture’s fisheries promotion section thinks that the proposal would enable the restart of aquaculture with a small investment from local aquaculture workers and also help increase the employment of young people in the industry, helping to bolster its future prospects.
Fishing cooperatives in the prefecture oppose the proposal, fearing risks in the management of fisheries resources because enterprises tend to quickly withdraw from new businesses if they do not promptly realize profits. But some fishermen think that fisheries would get a boost from the capital that new enterprises could inject. Fishing cooperatives and the central and prefectural governments concerned should together work out a scheme that will best contribute to recovery of local fisheries while adequately protecting fishermen’s rights and fishing resources.