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Popular fish is now protected species

Date Posted: 1998-03-28

Kuchinagi, a local fish found in the waters surrounding Okinawa, has recently been named a protected fish, meaning local fishermen can no longer take or sell them and divers are no longer allowed to touch or remove the fish from their habitat.

Kuchinagi, whose Latin name is Lethrinus ornatus or Lehtrinus obsoletus, live on and under the coral, and make up 95% of the fish sold in local fish markets. It is possibly Okinawa's most popular fish to both fishermen and divers but the fish's population is quickly diminishing because of it's great taste and availability. A few years ago, it was not unusual to see a fisherman bring in 16 kg. of Kichinagi but recently a more than catch of 6 kg. is unusual.

The Yayama Fishermen Association has been limiting the fishing of Kuchinagi, and there is a protected area where no fishing or diving is allowed. Okinawa Fishermen Section commented recently on the steps taken by the Yayama Association, stating "it is the first time anyone has prevented the taking of such a popular fish. They need to produce more eggs to keep these fish alive because the population is being radically reduces." The protected area prohibits not only the taking of Kuchinagi, but also of other sea life within the boundary. The Associations believe that a hatchery in the area will held the fish to produce more eggs so the population will once again be bountiful.

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