The earthquake and corresponding tsunami in Japan on March 11 have severely damaged the Japanese seafood industry, in addition to the already devastating human toll.
Previously, Japan was considered to have one of the most vibrant seafood markets in the world. The recent disaster has damaged all parts of the industry, from processing to importing.
Sendai, the city at the epicenter of the quake and tsunami, served as a main hub of the Japanese seafood industry. It provided storage and distribution areas for Alaskan seafood products including pollock and flatfish. It also contained processing facilities that accepted seafood from as far as India and Seattle.
Entire seafood fleets and aquaculture operations were also devastated. The tsunami destroyed boats and fishing gear in northeastern cities, including foreign vessels which fished in Japanese waters. Repairing all the damage would involve a significant investment.
The aquaculture industry in the Iwate Prefecture produced abalone, sea urchins, oysters, seaweed and large numbers of scallops, which have now been destroyed. If any of these remain, radiation leaking into the water and seafood will become a huge problem. As a precaution, Russia has suspended imports from more than 200 Japanese factories, and Britain, China, Singapore and Hong Kong have recently banned certain seafood imports from Japan due to concerns of radiation levels in Japanese seafood. Virtually all seafood trade has come to an abrupt stop.
Presumably, the Japanese will continue to eat seafood, but it will take time for trade to resume. This could mean that producers around the world may feel the effects of this change in the import market for years.
Copyright © 2011 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC