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Fish prices soar as temperatures, fuel costs rise

Date Posted: 2007-08-23

Fishermen are bringing in catches 60% below normal, and prices for those fish are 50% higher than only months ago.

Only days ahead of the Okinawa Obon holidays, fishermen and wholesalers are worried there won't be fish available to satisfy market needs. Obon is August 28-29. The Naha City Tomari Fishermen’s Association blames global warming for part of the problem, and rising diesel fuel costs as the rest.

Ocean water temperatures have been rising recently, and as it does, fishing catches get smaller. The fishing association says temperatures are now three degrees Centigrade higher, resulting in June catches 60% below those of a year ago. As ocean water temperatures get warmer, prized, profitable fish move to deeper depths, making fishing more difficult and catches smaller. Fishing Association officials say member boat operators used to net 5-10 tons of fish per day, a volume that has now dwindled to 1-2 tons daily.

Many small boat operators say they can’t make a profit with the higher fuel costs, so have suspended their fishing operations. “I have never had this bad catches in my whole life” said one Naha fisherman. “Whether it’s global warming or some other reason that the water temperature is so much up, the result is that there is no fish to catch, and this business is no more profitable.” The man, who’s been fishing more than 40 years, adds that “with the price of diesel going through the roof, the cost is simply too high. That’s why I have all but stopped going fishing.”

Housewives are rebelling at the higher fish prices, refusing the 50% higher rates. They say prices are simply too much. Fish wholesalers are feeling the pinch, too. Shinzen Kuniyoshi says he is having a hard time too. “My company supplies fish to major hotels and big supermarkets,” he says. “We have contracts with these hotels and supermarkets, so I have to get the fish whatever the cost.” Kuniyoshi laments “It’s almost impossible to get any local fish these days. And even imported tuna and other large fish are difficult to get, and the prices are 30 to 50 percent higher than before.”

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