Revitalize the Fishing Industry in Northeast Japan

by Peace Winds America
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!


Thank You from Shizugawa Fishing Co-op Staff
Thank You from Shizugawa Fishing Co-op Staff

Peace Winds America (PWA) thanks all the donors who have supported our Fishery Recovery Project.  This is our last project report, and we wanted to share our latest accomplishments and how you helped fishing communities in Tohoku region.

Abalone fishing traditional way:
Abalone fishing begins at dawn.  Fishermen navigate their boats to the harvest area, and catch abalone that are tightly stuck to the sea floor using water glasses and a specialized rod and hook.  Great skill is required to handle the rod while controlling the boat in order to have a good catch.  Abalone fishing is mostly done individually, and fishermen enjoy the friendly competition of the abalone harvest.

Bad weather, no boat, low market price, and harmful rumors – Nothing will keep Minamisanriku fishermen from going back to sea!
The Abalone season officially opened in November 2012.  During a normal season, there are five to six harvest days.   However each abalone harvest region only had three harvest days in 2012 due to bad weather.  

This season the abalone trading price was down 30% from previous fishing seasons.  No abalone was harvested last year due to the disaster, so abalone from other areas have taken Minamisanriku’s market share.   Moreover harmful rumors caused by the Fukushima nuclear crisis must have had an influence.

Additionally many fishermen still have not been able to replace their fishing boats damaged or lost during the tsunami.  Some fishermen were willing to share their surviving or newly-acquired vessels with those without, but demand for boats overwhelmed the supply during the harvest.     

Despite fewer harvesting days and fewer boats, the two fishing cooperatives were able to harvest almost as much as in 2010 (before the tsunami)!  What a great success!

Over 600 fishermen participated in the PWA subsidy program!
A total of 571 fishermen purchased abalone equipment through the PWA subsidy program.  PWA also extended support for sea urchin equipment since it only required replacing one component of the abalone equipment.  An additional 118 fishermen took advantage of our sea urchin equipment program. 

Ultimately  the PWA equipment subsidy program played important role in this year’s harvest.   Reduced equipment costs allowed more fishermen to participate resulting in additional income from the abalone harvest.

PWA continues supporting fishermen in Minamisanriku:
Though this project is finished, Peace Winds America will continue helping fishermen in Minamisanriku.   

PWA’s successful fishing shed program is now expanding to new districts!   This project helps fishing families who lost their homes, work spaces and fishing equipment.  By providing these families with a fishing shed (their base of operations), the families are able focus their resources on livelihood recovery and stabilization.

You can support fishing families who lost everything in the disaster.  Please  visit our new project site:

Thank You for Supporting Fishing Communities in Tsunami Affected Areas!!

Why help fishermen?
Peace Winds America has helped Minamisanriku since the immediate aftermath of the disaster.  This created a strong bond between the people in this town and PWA.  We immediately recognized the importance of supporting the fishing industry as it is the economic backbone and the livelihood for the majority of Minamisanriku’s citizens.   It was natural for PWA to continue working with them to transition from emergency relief to recovery of the area.   For two years we have been working closely with two fishing cooperatives in Minamisanriku:  Utatsu and Shizugawa.   With a good understanding of the history and culture of the fishing industry, we have been able to identify rapidly changing local needs and provide effective recovery projects.


Fishermen harvesting Abalone traditional way
Fishermen harvesting Abalone traditional way

Miamisanriku fishermen celebrate the first abalone season in two years!

Abalone, a treasured delicacy selling at a high price, is critical to the economy of Minamisanriku. For generations, fishing families have harvested the abalone from the rocks at sea bottom using traditional methods—using waterglasses and long rods and special hooks.  The entire community uses the traditional method to ensure the natural and highest quality of their harvest. The fishing families call the abalone harvest the “winter bonus” as it generates income to many families especially during the slow fishing season during November--January.  

The last abalone harvest was winter of 2010.  In the winter of 2011, abalone harvesting was canceled by the community because majority of the fishing families lacked equipment and boats.  The community guarded the area from illegal poaching.

Keeping the traditional harvesting method by generations

Most fishing families lost their houses, boats, equipment during the 3/11 tsunami.  Though many fishermen were looking forward to the abalone season, they lacked the funds to replace the equipment.  As the 2012 season approached, Peace Winds America decided to provide subsidies to the fishermen so they could purchase the special rods, waterglasses, and rent boats.  With the subsidies, many fishermen custom-made their rods and hooks.

Abalone Harvest Begins Again in 2012

In late November, 2012, the fishing cooperative announced the first harvesting date. Harvesting can only happen when the fishing cooperatives determine the weather and sea conditions are perfect.  Then they make an announcement one day in advance, allowing the harvest.  This season there were only three harvesting days.

The Minamisanriku fishing families were very excited to go back to the sea.  You could sense the entire city was thrilled to see the harvest as the fishermen offloaded their prized abalone.

Peace Winds support enabled us to help Abalone fishermen to help purchase equipment!

“Once I was at a sea and caught the first abalone, I felt so great and happy to finally be able to harvest again.  It was a little different scenery this year with much fewer boats and they are mostly new boats and new equipment” said Mr. Takahashi, a fishermen from Shizugawa district.  “But the subsidy program from Peace Winds eased our family financial burden for the equipment purchase and I am grateful for the opportunity to harvest again. “

Box full of Abalone
Box full of Abalone
Fresh harvested Abalone!
Fresh harvested Abalone!
Sorting Abalone by sizes
Sorting Abalone by sizes
Happy Harvesting!
Happy Harvesting!
Happy to return to the sea!
Happy to return to the sea!
Udatsu Fishing Cooperative employees in new office
Udatsu Fishing Cooperative employees in new office

It is easy to see progress at the Udatsu Fishing Cooperative in Minamisanriku.  Several months after the tsunami, the Cooperative built a small office to restore its operations.  Peace Winds was there to provide office equipment that the Cooperative could not afford.  From this small building the Udatsu Fishing Cooperative has led recovery efforts for its 400 members in northern Minamisanriku. 

In June 2012 the Cooperative expanded its building.  Again Peace Winds was there to outfit the new space with computers and a high-speed printer. Cooperative President Chiba-san expects the printer to reduce outsourced printing costs by 70 percent, saving the Cooperative nearly $400 every month. The equipment will enable the Cooperative to better communicate with members through newsletters and email alerts.      

With your support we are making a difference in the northeast Japan.

Progress is also apparent for Udatsu Fishing Cooperative members, who had a successful wakame seaweed harvest in the 2012 spring.  Peace Winds provided seaweed processing equipment.  Now the fishing families are preparing for the fall/winter 2012 abalone season.  Peace Winds is again delivering the necessary equipment - rods, hooks, abalone locators, and specialized paddles - for the first abalone harvest since the tsunami.

Peace Winds continues to work with the Udatsu Fishing Cooperative and its 400 members to accelerate economic recovery.  You can help!  From November 1 to 15, 2012, Global Giving will match 100% donations to the Revitalize the Fishing Industry in Northeast Japan project page.

Please spread the word about this great matching opportunity to your family and friends.  Together we can help even more fishing families and communities regain their livelihoods.

Thank you for supporting disaster recovery in Japan!

The Udatsu Cooperative expanded in June 2012.
The Udatsu Cooperative expanded in June 2012.
The Udatsu Cooperative office in October 2011
The Udatsu Cooperative office in October 2011
Shizugawa Fishermen with Abalone/Urchin Equipment
Shizugawa Fishermen with Abalone/Urchin Equipment

Few communities suffered greater losses in the March 2011 Japan tsunami than Minamisanriku.  Thousands of Minamisanriku residents lost their homes and their livelihoods.  Since May 2011, Peace Winds has been supporting Minamisanriku fishing cooperatives and members to revive the economy.  The catch of Minamisanriku fishermen is pivotal to the town’s economic recovery.

Minamisanriku is home to Shizugawa Fishing Cooperative and Udatsu Fishing Cooperative.  In 2012 Peace Winds and these cooperatives are working to support the seasonal needs of fishermen.  Most recently, Peace Winds and the cooperative leaders developed a plan to enable abalone and sea urchin fishermen to return to work.  Peace Winds and the cooperatives are targeting fishing equipment support to 500 Minamisanriku abalone and sea urchin fishermen.   From late summer through early autumn, the Shizugawa and Udatsu Cooperatives are taking orders for fishing equipment that Peace Winds agreed to provide. 

In late autumn, full-time and part-time Minamisanriku fishermen will harvest abalone for the first time since the March 2011 tsunami.  According to Udatsu Fishing Cooperative President Funabiki Chiba, this season’s abalone harvest is projected to increase the income of each abalone fisherman by $5,000 (400,000 Yen).  Abalone and sea urchin harvests provide income that complements the wakame (seaweed), trout salmon, octopus, and other fishing seasons.  By supporting the abalone and sea urchin fishermen, Peace Winds is creating jobs and restoring the livelihoods of Minamisanriku fishermen.

Minamisanriku fishermen use traditional methods to harvest abalone and sea urchin, which require specialized oars, shellfish locators, carbon or bamboo poles, hooks, and joints to connect the poles and hooks.  The traditional methods have been passed down for generations, having cultural and historical significance to the Minamisanriku fishermen and community.

Peace Winds is grateful for your support to Minamisanriku fishing cooperatives and fishermen.

PWA and Shizugawa Fishing Cooperative
PWA and Shizugawa Fishing Cooperative
Udatsu Cooperative President Funabiki Chiba
Udatsu Cooperative President Funabiki Chiba



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Organization Information

Peace Winds America

Location: Seattle, WA - USA
Website: http:/​/​​
Project Leader:
Jon Ehrenfeld
Seattle, WA United States

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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