Revitalize the Fishing Industry in Northeast Japan

Mar 13, 2014

On Tohoku Match Day, Opportunities for Recovery

In Minamisanriku, Signs of Progress and Issues for the Future

It is still winter in Tohoku, but spring is fast approaching! On the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami there is still much work to be done. According to the Government of Japan there are still 267,000 displaced residents living in temporary housing.  These residents will continue to need much support - community programs, livelihood assistance, and assistance transitioning to permanent housing. Peace Winds America has committed to undertaking programs that focus on these vulnerable residents still living in temporary houses. Because so many of these residents were in the fishing industry, support for this program will have a significant impact on this community.

Program Past and Future

With your support we have partnered with critical fishing cooperatives to provide equipment for members (rods, nets, hooks, paddles, and other specialized equipment). We have supported the cooperatives themselves, ensuring they remain vital to help their members.  Together we have provided work and storage space for displaced fishing families in the form of sheds. Last update we touched on the completed oyster shield, which remains critical, and a projected LED lighting project which continues to move forward. We will continue to work with the fishing cooperatives and fishing families in the future, with an emphasis on helping Tohoku residents in temporary housing. We will complete the lighting program, making the port that much effective. And we will remain in contact with you, our donors.

Your Match Makes a Difference!

In honor of the 3rd anniversary of East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, GlobalGiving is hosting a matching campaign for projects that work for recovery in Tohoku area.  Today, your donations will be matched 100% by GlobalGiving until matchign funds last.  To donate, click on "give now" button below.  

GlobalGiving's 100% match is an exciting opportunity to renew our commitment to Tohoku. Together we can ensure that our long-term recovery programs remain in operation, helping the neediest. As always, thank you for your support and your generosity. 

Dec 11, 2013

Winter Update - Oysters and Port Lighting

Oyster Fishermen Behind the New Fence (Photo: PWJ)
Oyster Fishermen Behind the New Fence (Photo: PWJ)

Update from Minamisanriku

From our partners in Peace Winds Japan comes the heartening news that the wind-break fence Peace Winds America helped construct is built and doing its job admirably.  Earlier this year we heard from our partners that workers processing oysters – a job done in the cold Tohoku winter – required a fence to stay warm while they worked. The oyster fishermen and processers alike requested this facility be built to aid them as they continued on the path to economic recovery.

We are happy to report that the 45-meter fence is working as advertised and earning high marks from the fishing families in Minamisanriku.  One worker told us, “Thanks to the fence, when there is a strong windy day like today, we can work without any big obstacles! Thank you very much for your support!” We’d like to pass that message of thanks on to our donors and supporters, without whom none of this would be possible.

Next Steps and Future Projects

Peace Winds America remains committed to ongoing economic recovery for the fishing industry in Tohoku.  PWA is presently exploring a proposal to provide LED lighting for fishermen of the Utatsu fishing cooperative of Minamisanriku. Many of the ports have been rebuilt since the tsunami, but they are dark and unlit at night.  This presents difficulties for the fishermen, who worry about security and about having to work in the dark.  Working with Peace Winds Japan, PWA will help fund solar LEDs at several ports.  The solar panels on the lights will collect power during the day and keep the ports safe and brightly lit at night.

With the third anniversary of the tsunami in sight, PWA thanks our supporters again and reaffirms our commitment to the people of Tohoku.

At Work Processing the Oyster Catch
At Work Processing the Oyster Catch
Sep 5, 2013

Update from Minamisanriku, Miyagi

Mr. Endo, Oyster Farmer in Minamisanriku
Mr. Endo, Oyster Farmer in Minamisanriku

Slow progress--long recovery

We’d like to thank you for your support to our effort to revitalize the fishing industry in tsunami affected area in Japan.  In the past two years, we have implemented various projects and helped over 1,000 people in Kesennuma and Minamisanriku (Miyagi Prefecture).  Projects included fishing co-operatives support (buildings, staff, computers and office equipment), maritime high school rehabilitation, grants to small businesses, fishing equipment subsidies to families, a wind breaker fence for the oyster processing, etc    All have really helped restart critical livelihoods within the area.   Thank You!

In early August, I met with the members of oyster processing group in Minamisanriku.  Earlier this spring, together with our sister organization Peace Winds Japan (PWJ), PWA had provided a windshield fence to improve the oyster processing facilities.   This fence protected the 23 women and oyster farmers from the freezing gusty winds while they processed the oysters.

When we met, they were also busy preparing oyster seeds for next year’s season.  They reported that last harvesting was very successful and hoped to have another good season this year.  The tsunami had cleaned the sea bottom and improved the water conditions, which helped produce high quality oysters - perhaps one of the few positive outcomes from the 3/11 disaster.   “If you are good at it, you can shell more than ten oysters in a minute,” said Fujiko Sugawara, one of the women who worked at the facility.  “If big oysters, I can fill up a 10kg bucket in no time.”  She looked proud.  “We are just happy to be able to do this work again.”  The other women nodded.  “Oyster processing is a family business.  We never did this in a team environment, but we have to work as a team for a while to get through this very tough time.  I can’t wait to go back to a more family-oriented work style, because this is been our method for many, many years.”  

They are hoping to able to work as they used to do perhaps by August 2014.  Until then, they will try to make the most out of this work situation.

The recovery of Tohoku has begun, yet slowly.  PWA will continue to monitor the recovery progress and provide timely support.   We hope that you will be able to help us. 

- Appeal to help our Fishing Shed program –

We are building fishing sheds for fishing families in Minamisanriku.  We have just identified two new districts where the families are in critical need of storage and work space.  It’s important for PWA to complete the construction before winter so more fishing families will have better working environment. We do need your help!  Please read our Fishing Shed program reports and help us reach more fishermen. Please visit and help us support more fishing families.  

Thank you.

Mari Poorman

Looking forward to the next Oyster season!
Looking forward to the next Oyster season!
PWA Mari and Oyster processing group
PWA Mari and Oyster processing group
Fun interview moment with Endo-san
Fun interview moment with Endo-san
Long way to a recovery
Long way to a recovery


Jun 20, 2013

Another story from PWA - Restoring Tohoku fishing industry little by little

What a great smile!  Thank you for your support!
What a great smile! Thank you for your support!

“I can’t thank you enough.  Whenever I see my truck, I say, ‘Thank You, Peace Winds America,’ in my head.  I didn’t think I’d be able to receive support for the truck.” said Katsuo Saito.  His eyes are filled with tears.  He is a recipient of PWA’s Small Business Support program, which aims to encourage faster recovery of small business owners’ livelihoods by providing small subsidies to purchase equipment that was lost to the 2011 tsunami. 

Saito-san repairs motors for winches installed on deep-sea fishing vessels.

The tsunami destroyed his workshop, but luckily, only the first floor of the house was damaged.  It is one of the few surviving houses in his neighborhood in Kesennuma.  Saito-san’s family lived upstairs while mudding out and repairing the workshop and the first floor of the house.  His son, Shuichi, works with him. It’s a real small family business.

Until the subsidy from PWA enabled him to purchase a used truck with a crane to lift heavy winch motors, Mr. Saito had to arrange a rental truck whenever he received a repair order.  “It was just time consuming and costly to do so, and sometimes we had to turn down orders because we couldn’t arrange a rental truck in time. Now I have been working much more efficiently and being more productive.”

Deep-sea fishing is a major industry in Kesennuma. Many vessels chase wild Tuna as far as South America for as long as 18 months at a time.  They carry around 20 fishermen and crew onboard.

Saito-san plays an important role in this critical maritime industry.  “There are only three engineers who can repair these motors in Kesennuma.  We have been extremely busy but, we were not able to repair as many vessels because we lost our truck.  The average motor weighs about 600kg, so it was impossible to carry on our own.”

Saito-san still has a long way to go to rebuild his business.  His house and workshop are located in an area scheduled to be raised by 3 meters.  He will need to move.  “I need to find land where I can rebuild my workshop, but land prices have gone up and it is hard to find available and reasonably priced land in the area.” 

In order for Saito-san to be able to think about his future, he needed a truck.  A truck with a crane so he could support the many deep-sea vessels in the area and a truck which helps his livelihood.  PWA knows how to maximize your donations to provide a long lasting impact in the area’s industry. 

Tohoku is slowly recovering and we are very happy to support a small business owner like Saito-san who has been working for over 40 years helping deep-sea fishermen in the Tohoku region.  In our view, Saito-san is a very important person to help recover livelihood of so many deep sea fishermen and PWA couldn't be happier to be able to help him.

Thank you very much for your generous support!

 Mari Poorman

Father and Son.  It
Father and Son. It's a family business!
This crane can lift a motor weighs over 2t!
This crane can lift a motor weighs over 2t!


Apr 25, 2013

One more project to help fishery in Tohoku

Endo-san @ Shizugawa Fishing Cooperatives
Endo-san @ Shizugawa Fishing Cooperatives

Dear GlobalGiving PWA Fishery Project Supporters:

In my previous report, we announced the end of the Fisheries Support GlobalGiving Project, however, just as we put the report online we were contacted by the Fishing Cooperative in Shizugawa, Minamisanriku, who asked PWA to help them with building a windshield fence for their Oyster Processing facility to improve their working environment. PWA answered the call, and we wanted to report this activity to you.  We are very happy that we were able to respond and be involved in this project as PWA has been working so closely with Shizugawa Fishing Cooperative for the past two years.



Important Livelihood:

Oyster farming is a primary fishing industry in Minamisanriku. Before the tsunami, there were 43 oyster-farming families who brought in about 12 percent of the total fishing revenue of the Shizugawa Cooperative.

Processed oysters (those with their shells removed, then cleaned and packaged) are heavily favored by Japanese consumers. However processing requires a specialized facility with sterilization equipment and skilled labor. In spite of the these production costs, since processed oysters command a much higher market price, the net value to the farmer is considerably more than oysters in the shell.

The tsunami destroyed not only oyster farming/harvesting equipment, but also all the processing facilities in Shizugawa.  In 2011, oyster farmers lost the sales income of processed oysters, as the farmers were unable to rebuild and start the processing facility.

Secure employment for women:

Oyster farming and harvesting is typically done by men.  Oyster processing is primarily done by women, and provides them with an income opportunity rare in the Minamisanriku region.  Currently there are 23 women working at the processing facility.  

Adapt to the new environment:

The oyster season begins in October and runs through the frigid winter ending in May.  Winter processing is especially severe. The high winds created an unexpected issue for the workers at this new facility. Before the 3/11 disaster, the destroyed processing facility was situated among multi-story buildings, but now the new facility is close to the mouth of a river, with no buildings near.  Strong, cold mountain winds follow the river’s course and directly strike the factory and the workers.  Due to food hygiene regulations, heaters cannot be used while processing oysters.  People working at this facility suffer from freezing wind.

In order to resolve these intolerable working conditions, Shizugawa Fishing Cooperatives addressed the need of the windshield and PWA supported the project financially.

Voice from a beneficiary:

Head of Oyster Group, Katsuhiko Endo

"Thank you very much for constructing the wind shield. It is really helpful, and will aid us immensely as we shell the oysters. Although It is gradually getting warm during the day, the temperature in the early morning, when we are shelling oysters, is still very cold. Today's temperature in the morning was 3 degrees Celsius. We are still happy the shield is now ready, as there are also many windy days in April.  In the coming fall, we will be ready to start or work for the next season. We will do our best,"

This facility and windbreak will function for ten years or more, aiding particularly the livelihoods of women and contributing to Minamisanriku’s economy and well-being. 

Thank you GlobalGiving supporters!

Oyster Processing Facility without wind shield
Oyster Processing Facility without wind shield
Inside of the Oyster Processing Facility
Inside of the Oyster Processing Facility
No more cold gusty winds!  Wind shield completed!
No more cold gusty winds! Wind shield completed!


About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.

Donation Options
An anonymous donor will match all new monthly recurring donations, but only if 75% of donors upgrade to a recurring donation today.
Terms and conditions apply.
Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?


Project Leader

Jon Ehrenfeld

Seattle, WA United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Revitalize the Fishing Industry in Northeast Japan