Helping Nature Replenish the Oceans
Aichi's Efforts to Promote Its Fishing Industry

Prologue
World's largest seafood consumer
Technological support
Growing what you reap



The nijiiwa, a new species produced through the crossbreeding of the trout and char, is larger and tastier than the latter.
(Photos by Yoshiharu Ishii)

In May this year a Japanese movie called Unagi (The Eel), directed by Shohei Imamura, won the Golden Palm award for most outstanding work at the Cannes film festival--the world's biggest movie contest. Eel dishes are very popular among the Japanese and have high nutritional content. One of the favorite ways of serving the eel is as kabayaki, or grilled eel covered with a thick, sweet sauce.
 Aichi is the leading producer of eels in Japan and has remained at the top spot for 14 straight years; yields accounted for 32% of the national production volume in 1996.
 Fishing is one of Aichi's biggest industries, along with manufacturing and agriculture. The prefecture's major fishery operations include freshwater farming, such as of eels and goldfish; coastal fishing, especially in Ise and Mikawa Bays; and laver cultivation. Although Aichi's production volume ranks roughly halfway down the list of prefectural totals, it is first for a number of specific products. One could say the prefecture has a very distinctive fishing industry.


World's largest seafood consumer
Japan is the world's largest consumer of marine products. One can see from Japan's food culture that seafood is closely connected with Japanese eating habits, with many products from the sea adorning the dining table. But prospects for the fishing industry are not altogether bright. In January 1997 the United Nations Law of the Sea was implemented limiting the volume of catch per nation.
 At the same time, seafood imports have increased sharply, transforming Japan from the world's largest exporter of marine products to the world's biggest importer. The Japanese fishing industry faces a major turning point.
 To secure a stable supply of marine products while conserving resources, Japan is now endeavoring to shift to a resource-management-type approach. This means that instead of simply catching fish, efforts are being made to raise and cultivate what is consumed. Such efforts toward environmental preservation and resource cultivation are now actively being made in Ise and Mikawa Bays. Aichi is experimenting with new approaches in a wide range of fields, including the development of new products through biotechnology, fish farming, and environmental protection of fishing grounds.


Technological support
The driving force behind such efforts is the Aichi Fisheries Research Institute and the Aichi Fish Farming Institute.
 Since its establishment in 1894, well before similar centers were built in other parts of the country, the Aichi Fisheries Research Institute has been fulfilling an important role in promoting Aichi's fishing industry.
 "More than a century has passed since the Aichi Fisheries Research Institute was founded," said its director, Hironari Mizuno. "During this time, we've been supporting the prefecture's fishing industry from both the hardware and software angles, providing technological backing as well as managerial support and so on, and the fruits of these endeavors are plain for anyone to see. In recent years, research is being focused on new areas, such as raising the added value of marine products, improving fish farming techniques, and preserving fishing grounds. In this sense, the institute will have an increasingly vital role in the years ahead."
 In response to the advancement and specialization of research, the institute has restructured its organization and improved its research facilities, establishing the Marine Resources Research Center in 1988 and the Mikawa Ichinomiya Station in 1994. And at present a new complex, that will serve as a hub for these facilities, is being planned in the city of Gamagori, with completion scheduled for 2000.
 "Among the issues we face today, the environmental preservation of fishing grounds is particularly important," said Mizuno. "Water pollution in Ise and Mikawa Bays--beset by red tides--and elsewhere is becoming increasingly serious. We've been looking into ways to restore and clean up the bay ecosystem, such as by studying the mechanism behind red tides, creating tidelands to improve water quality, and developing ways to preserve and create seaweed beds. These research themes will be addressed even more thoroughly when a new facility for ecosystem research is completed; it's scheduled to have a giant tank where the ecosystem of the sea will be simulated for research on tidelands and seaweed beds and experiments on plankton, fish, and shellfish cultivation."
 Research on farming technologies for Aichi's main cultivated products, such as eels and goldfish, is being undertaken at the various facilities of the Aichi Fisheries Research Institute. For example, the Freshwater Resources Research Center began studying ways to breed eels in captivity by collecting fertilized eggs, hatching them, and raising eel young. And the Yatomi Station is carrying out studies on goldfish and other pet fish to produce sturdier and more attractive varieties. The goldfish of Yatomi became famous when they joined Chiaki Mukai--Japan's first female astronaut--and others aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1994 for experiments in space sickness.
 The center's Mikawa Ichinomiya Station, meanwhile, is developing new marine products through biotechnology. New species have been developed by crossbreeding trout and conger eel (nijiama) and trout and char (nijiiwa) through chromosome manipulation. They are reportedly very delicious and grow larger than ordinary fish, prompting Aichi Governor Reiji Suzuki to christen them "silk princess salmon" with an eye toward commercialization.
 Research is also being carried out in other areas, such as surveys of ocean resources and research on nursery production for fish farming. With the enactment of the U.N. Law of the Sea, development of technologies for the sustainable use of marine resources has become indispensable. The Aichi Fisheries Research Institute is thus gathering data on water temperatures determined by two artificial satellites--called NOAA and ADEOS-to better predict the growth and movement of such fish as sardines.


Growing what you reap
Aichi is also making an active effort to conserve and expand marine resources. The leading role here is being played by the Aichi Fish Farming Institute, which is situated at the tip of the Atsumi Peninsula jutting out into the Pacific Ocean. Fish farming regards the vast ocean and rivers as fields, into which are released seedlings (young fish). After they grow up, the young are caught as adult fish. The pioneering example of this approach is salmon cultivation.
 "The role of our institute," explained Fumiaki Mineshima, head of the operations section, "is to increase marine resources in Ise and Mikawa Bays in much the same way as you would in agriculture-by sowing (releasing) many seeds (young fish) and making marine life abundant."
 Since its establishment in 1978, the institute has aimed to mass produce the young of such fish as abalone, black porgy, blue crab, sea cucumber, sweetfish, and tiger prawn--which has been designated as the prefectural fish. Some 27 million tiger prawns are grown by the institute each year.
 According to Aichi Fisheries Research Institute director Mizuno, who also heads the Aichi Fish Farming Institute, "The two institutes hold the key to the future of the fishing industry in Aichi Prefecture. They are the two wheels of a bicycle, so to speak. Even if you release a lot of young fish, they won't grow up if the sea is polluted. So it's essential for us to go ahead forcefully with research on such issues as conservation of the marine environment and cleansing of our oceans."
 For Aichi Prefecture, Ise Bay and Mikawa Bay are mother seas. Through efforts by the Aichi Fisheries Research Institute and the Aichi Fish Farming Institute, hopefully these seas will be restored as treasure troves of marine products.