Helping Nature Replenish the Oceans
Aichi's Efforts to Promote Its Fishing Industry
World's largest seafood consumer
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
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
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
"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
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
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.