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Fishermen stage oil protest strike on Tuesday

Date Posted: 2008-07-10

With oil prices triple what they were only three years ago, Okinawa’s fishermen will join in a nationwide work stoppage Tuesday to let the government know it needs to do something.

Fishermen’s cooperative unions across Japan, including the Okinawa Prefecture Tuna Fishermen’s Association, will band together in a move they hope will spur the central government to do something to ease their plight. They say the oil fueling their boats costs more than profits earned from taking the boats onto the open seas.

Tuesday’s strike will be the first in which Okinawa fishermen join in. Eighty of the prefecture’s 150 registered tuna fishing boats belong to Okinawa Prefecture Tuna Fishermen’s Association members. The association is appealing to those other 70 boat owners to join them in the protest. Association members acknowledge that their actions will cause a tuna shortage in the marketplace, raising the costs slightly, but say they must take action to protect their livelihoods.

“I can’t force all fishermen to join the strike,” says Toshihiko Shimoji, chairman of the local association, “because some are small boat fishermen and they’ve got to make the judgment on their own what to do.” With fish in short supply some days, boats are coming home nearly empty, leaving fishermen to worry about their futures.

The local fishermen’s association says oil now costs them ¥110 per liter, up from ¥35 three years ago. The average monthly fuel bill for a fishing boat is now ¥3 million, although larger boats use more. Adding in monthly salaries for operating a boat, ¥2 million, fishermen say their total expenses are approximately ¥5 million each month, leaving little, if any profit.

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