Tsunami devastated hoya, salmon fisheries.

Date: April 20, 2011

Tsunami devastated hoya, salmon fisheries

SENDAI--Hoya sea squirt and coho salmon farms in the Sanriku region of Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, which account for more than 95 percent of their respective markets in Japan, were destroyed by the colossal tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Local hoya farmers are devastated because the tsunami wrecked their plans to ship the products this year. It usually takes three to four years to breed hoya, and so far there are no prospects that breeding efforts can or will resume.

According to fishery cooperatives in the two prefectures, tsunami caused by the March 11 quake obliterated hoya farms belonging to 25 local fishery cooperatives in the two prefectures. In Samenoura Bay in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, from which about 800 tons of hoya are shipped annually, breeding rafts washed ashore and remain piled up with other debris. Only the skeletal frame remains of a hoya storage structure near the water.

Hoya are bred by attaching larvae to oyster shells hanging from rafts in the bay for three to four years. Hoya, an invertibrate also known as "sea pineapple," had been growing well this season before the tsunami struck.

"We were just about to harvest the hoya that we had bred for four years," said a disappointed Keiichi Abe, 66, who has been breeding hoya for about 30 years.

Miyagi Prefecture accounted for 8,986 tons of the 10,937 tons of hoya harvested across the country in 2009, and Iwate Prefecture accounted for another 1,485 tons. The combined figure is 96 percent of the nation's total output.

Because hoya from the two prefectures could not be harvested, hoya became scarce in Tokyo's Tsukiji wholesale market and prices rose accordingly.

Meanwhile, production of "Date no Gin" (Date's silver), a coho salmon variety cultured in Miyagi Prefecture, accounting for 99 percent of the country's coho salmon output, also was devastated by the March 11 tsunami.

Coho salmon bred as Date no Gin is popular because of its light taste compared with imported varieties. It is delicious when eaten raw.

It is impossible to say how long it will take to rebuild the salmon culturing industry.

Shigeru Kimura, 61, who has bred the silver salmon for 30 years in Onagawacho in the prefecture said: "All I've got left is my debts. It's impossible to resume [coho salmon breeding] by myself."
(Apr. 19, 2011)

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