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Fishermen’s association in trouble for cooked books

Date Posted: 2003-10-31

The explanations don’t match the evidence. And now, the Naha City Inshore Fishermen’s Association and its chairman Yoshiaki Yamagawa have landed in hot water over books that do not add up.

Officials suspect that as many as half of the association’s members have submitted falsified fishing records. Association members say, though, that the association office prepared all paperwork, and they only applied their personal seals on the papers, often without even taking a second look at what was actually written on them.

According to the association rules, to be eligible for a membership a fisherman must catch and sell a minimum Y1.2 million worth of fish annually. Of that amount, the association collects five percent as a membership fee.

At the same time, the government pays the fishermen a twice-a-year subsidy of a maximum Y3 million each from the Defense Agency budget to cover losses from government-related activities that affect fishing operations. That is, the more catch they claim, the more they can claim estimated losses. The subsidy money is paid through the association, which takes half and distributes the other half to the members.

It turns out that according to official paperwork, almost all members barely made over the minimum required for membership, but other paperwork shows that everyone was eligible for the maximum subsidy. In that way, their membership fee was as small as possible but at the same time they, and the association, collected the maximum subsidy.

Now that the trick is out, members and the chairman are pointing the finger at each other. The chairman says his office makes the paperwork based on reports from members and does not check what they actually caught. “That is true,” one member admits, ”But the office makes all paperwork for the subsidy also. They must know.”

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