Industrial Action – 8/3

In contrast to previous days, today provided an opportunity to learn about the more conventional, highly industrial methods of fishing and farming. Mr. Shimada and Mr. Sato from the Fishery Promotion Division of Kushiro City and Mr. Saka, a member of one of the Kushiro fishing cooperatives, lectured us on the fisheries in Kushiro, the history and allocation of collective fishing rights, and the operation of hatcheries for Shishamo smelt.

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Sanma ships docked in Kushiro port.

Kushiro port is one of the most active in Japan and is capable of handling over 100 ships in a day, landing fish from all over the country. The history of Kushiro’s fisheries follows a pattern of booming catches followed by decimation of fish stocks due to overfishing. Restrictions on international fishing rights and the adoption of quotas, which are distributed to individual fishers by their cooperative associations, have seen the reduction of harvests to levels similar to the 1960s.

Fishing rights are untradable. Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is determined based on research by prefectural officials to analyse fish stocks followed by a meeting between representatives of the various fishing cooperatives to negotiate fishing rights.

The cooperatives also practice aquaculture as a means of increasing fish stocks. They capture shishamo smelt on their way to their spawning grounds and protect the eggs and fry from predation and environmental hazards before releasing them back into the wild. Professor Ito has suggested that this could have the effect of weakening the smelt gene pool.

Mr. Fujiwara runs a dairy cow operation vastly different than that of the My Pace farmers. His cows are highly concentrated in enclosures and fed by robots. Their lifecycle is strictly regulated for the express purpose of maximising their short term milk production. His family and hired workers manage about 300 cows, with about 60 of them producing milk at any given time. Tancho cranes often visit his farm in winter to eat the remains of his dent corn harvest and the feed for his cows. Mr. Fujiwara’s generally pleasant disposition toward wild animals and diplomatic efforts by Mr. Harada and others of the Wild Bird Society of Japan mean that he bears with them.

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Mr. Fujiwara’s robot.

However, Mr. Harada fears that efforts to reduce the cranes’ reliance on human assistance during winter will end up driving them onto farmers land, creating additional problems for both farmers and birds. The tancho crane is a protected animal in Japan, and efforts to restore the population of the animal once thought extinct have been very successful. Perhaps even too much so. Mr. Harada indicated that within their current range, the birds subsist with one tenth of the territory that wild birds are thought to need; the current density is one mating pair per 300m^2 as opposed to the ideal of 4km^2.

Today has given us a lot to think about, exposing us to the complexity of the conflicts that threaten the Kushiro wetland.

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