What sea creatures can you legally take and eat from Okinawa?

A sight that makes any seafood lover salivate, but is it all legal catch?

For all of us on Okinawa that like to use the species of Mother Nature’s ocean as our source of protein, you may want to ensure that it is legal to catch let alone eat some of these sea creatures before you take your next bite.

If you have done any fishing in North America, you are already well aware that you need a fishing license to catch certain types of fish during the year.  But what about Okinawa?  One needs to be careful as the penalties are stiff if you are taking the wrong type of species.  Okinawa uses the honor system of good “sea manners” as there is no bag limit, so it’s up to you to stay honest and take what’s legal and only what you need to eat.

Not only is it illegal to capture and take some of the sea life, but also illegal could be the way you fish for these creatures.  For instance, fishing with a pole on land or on a boat is okay, although fishing lights are prohibited. Casting nets such as brail nets or spoon nets are okay on land, but not on a boat. If you are snorkeling using a spear or barbed object it’s okay, but if the type of spear you have has a launching device, such as a Hawaiian sling, then you are edging on the dark side of the law.  If you are fishing with nets, such as a gill net, using a crab basket, a spear gun, or hunting fish or shellfish using diving apparatuses, you are looking at a maximum fine of \100,000 and 6 months in prison.

Here are some of the sea creatures you are prohibited from taking:

  • any type of reef-building coral and flora and fauna
  • any sea turtle or their eggs are protected as these species are threatened (and who doesn’t want to see more turtles while they are swimming? Let’s keep these guys protected!)
  • Hitoegusa (sea lettuce)
  • Hijiki (Hijikia seaweed)
  • specific species of clams (see link for details)
  • certain types of shellfish including:
  • spiny lobsters
  • hirosegai (green top)
  • yakaougai (great green turban )
  • Sazae (silver-mouth Turban)
  • Takasegai (Commericial trochus)
  • Shirahige Uni (Hawaiian Sea Urchin)

For more information including pictures of prohibited species check out the following link:

http://www.mcipac.marines.mil/Portals/28/butler/G6%20Web/BaseSafety/Okinawa%20Gov%20Rules%20of%20the%20Sea.pdf

Local fish lovers on Okinawa may wonder why are there so many rules on what we can and cannot catch and, for that matter, how we catch them. This is because on Okinawa fish and shellfish are a limited resource, and to balance the commercial fishing industry these laws are set in place to avoid people from taking more from the ocean than necessary.  We need to be responsible Okinawan citizens and keep the ocean at a sustainable level to allow it to continue growing and thriving.