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Saury catch in Japan plunges to record low

This file photo taken on Aug. 27, 2019, shows saury being unloaded at Kesennuma Port in the city of Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture. (Mainichi/Atsushi Arai)

TOKYO -- Japan's haul of saury in 2019 reached a record low of 40,517 metric tons, 66% less than in the previous year, a national fisheries cooperative announced on Jan. 7.

The average price per 10 kilograms of the popular fish to eat in autumn stood at 3,160 yen, about 70% higher than in 2018. The former lowest record was set in 1969 when about 52,000 tons was caught.

At Hanasaki Port in the city of Nemuro in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, where the largest amount of saury had previously been netted in Japan, the amount dipped to 16,106 tons, 61% down from 2018.

Catches recorded at major ports on the Honshu main island of Japan also decreased. At Ofunato Port in Iwate Prefecture, the haul stood at 6,400 tons, a 63% decrease from 2018. At Kesennuma Port in Miyagi Prefecture, the figure was 5,380 tons, 69% less than in 2018.

According to the cooperative's statistics, the annual saury catch in Japan had been more than 200,000 tons throughout the 2000s, but the amount started to gradually decrease in the 2010s. The figure dropped to 77,169 tons in 2017 but improved to 119,930 tons in 2018 before again falling to less than 50,000 tons in 2019 for the first time.

The main cause of the poor catch is attributable to be a decrease in the number of saury that migrate in the Pacific. Some experts point out that the decrease in Japan was influenced by increased catches by Taiwanese and Chinese ships in international waters. Additionally, it's thought that saury, which prefer cold water, avoided seas near Japan due to higher water temperatures in the region.

(Japanese original by Shuichi Kanzaki, Business News Department)

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