Revitalize the Fishing Industry in Northeast Japan

by Peace Winds America
PWA and Koyo Administrators in the Koyo Media Room
PWA and Koyo Administrators in the Koyo Media Room

“There was no budget for the Media Room.  Without Peace Winds support, our students would have no access to special classes with audio/visual capability.”  Principal Seto of Koyo Maritime High School knew that the school’s empty Media Room detracted from his students learning experience.  The former Media Room, destroyed along with the rest of Koyo Maritime High School in the March 2011 tsunami, was a favorite among students, a place to consume and create using various technologies.  With Peace Winds support, the delighted Principal Seto was able to reopen the Koyo Media Room.

In late April 2012 Peace Winds equipped the Koyo Media Room with a screen, projector, laptop, speakers, microphones and monitor.  For Peace Winds the Media Room represented an opportunity to not only help Koyo students, but also to support the future of the fishing industry in the area.  The room is actively used now by Koyo students, faculty, the PTA and even nearby community groups who need a meeting space.

Koyo Maritime High School in Kesennuma trains young men and women to work in the fishing industry.  The school has operated for over 100 years, but temporarily closed after the March 2011 tsunami.  Located near the sea, Koyo Maritime High School was the only Kesennuma high school destroyed in March 2011.  Luckily, all Koyo students and staff took refuge on the school’s roof during the tsunami, and no lives were lost.  In November 2011, Koyo reopened in a temporary building provided by the Japan government.

Koyo Maritime High School covers grades 10 to 12 and has an average enrollment of 350 students.  The students are split into three different departments: the Marine Information Department, which teaches sailing, navigation, and other maritime skills; the Industry Department, which focuses on business and food processing skills; and the Machine Technology Department, which teaches machinery and engines.

Former site of Koyo Maritime High School
Former site of Koyo Maritime High School


"Some of our fishermen are already back out at sea.  Others have new boats and are ready to go, but the government has not yet decided where the docks will go.  Our guys are frustrated, but we are making progress, bit by bit."

Last week a group of us visited two fishing cooperatives in the small coastal town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi. The Shizugawa Fishing Cooperative and the Udatsu Fishing Cooperative together support nearly 1,500 members in the industry that drives the economy in these small coastal towns.  Peace Winds America (PWA) and Peace Winds Japan (PWJ), with support from GlobalGiving donors, are helping these coops get back on their feet after the majority of their boats and many lives were lost.

The first order of business was to help the coops replace the facilities and office equipment lost to the tsunami.  The quote above was from the director of one of the coops. We were having coffee in the coop's new headquarters, which was made up of several temporary housing units bolted together.  Around us was a beehive of activity, with fishermen coming in and out, and people reviewing spreadsheets on computer screens.  They were reviewing the previous day's catch, checking on market prices, and deciding where to fish the next day.

Despite a tragic number of deaths, the director had rebuilt the roster of coop members to its previous level.  That was impressive given the total devastation of the town, which had few houses left.  Nearly all the survivors were living in temporary housing units scattered throughout the area; many can't rebuild on their previous land, because the water level rose over a meter after the earthquake.

"What are your biggest remaining challenges?" we asked.

"Well, the big thing is where we are going to put the docks, as I said," he replied.  "Until the government decides that, we can't get back up to capacity.

"And then there is the question of boats.  We lost much of our fleet, and even though many of our fishermen have the funds to buy new boats, the manufacturers can't keep up with demand, and there are long delays.

"One of there things I am most worried about is the older fishermen.  If we don't get them back out on the water soon, they will never go back.  Many of them lost wives and other family, and they are very depressed.

"And then there is the issue of radiation.  We have been testing fish intensively, and the readings are very low.  But the government won't announce what the acceptable limits are, so some consumers don't trust the fish, however low the levels are.  That prevents us from selling certain types of fish that people believe are more likely to be affected."

These challenges sounded daunting to me.  But the director was resolute, and notwithstanding the huge tragedy he did not want to dwell on the past. His members had already re-built their revenues to two-thirds of the pre-tsunami level, and he was determined they are going to make a full recovery despite the odds.  It was impossible not to be impressed and inspired and hopeful.  We left the co-op and went to eat lunch at a temporary cafe.  What was on the menu?  Sushi made from the local catch.  It was fantastic.

GlobalGiving and Peace Winds staffs
GlobalGiving and Peace Winds staffs
Former site of Koyo Maritime High School
Former site of Koyo Maritime High School

“It has been a year past from the Tsunami day.  Not much progress has done as PWA saw the situation here in Kesennuma.  The memory of the people outside of the area is fading, but we are living in this place every day with reality.  Please keep reminding American people that some people are still in hard condition and continuously fighting against the Tsunami.  It will take at least ten years or so.”
                                                                                - Kesennuma disaster survivor March 12th email to PWA


Japan Tsunami:  The Year in Review

One year has passed since the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami devastated the Tohoku region of northeast Japan.  Over 276,000 buildings were destroyed and nearly 20,000 people lost their lives.  Peace Winds America and our sister organization Peace Winds Japan brought immediate relief and recovery to the affected areas.    
Three days after the tsunami PWA CEO Charles Aanenson arrived in Japan to help coordinate disaster relief with Peace Winds Japan.  Peace Winds reached over 28,000 disaster survivors at evacuation centers in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures, delivering over 160 tons of supplies. Peace Winds also offered disaster survivors a variety of emergency services, including communications, transportation, and medical visits. 

In April 2011 families began to move from crowded evacuation centers to temporary housing units.  Peace Winds delivered household supplies, including cookware, bedding, and clothes, to ease the transition for 23,000 people in Iwate Prefecture who had lost everything.  In autumn Peace Winds provided heaters to nearly 8,000 families to prepare for a cold winter in poorly insulated temporary houses. 

Peace Winds initiated its recovery partnerships with fishing cooperatives and local Chambers of Commerce in the spring of 2011.  Since then, Peace Winds has helped clear debris from fishing ports, reopened fishing cooperatives and fish markets, supplied fishermen and fish farmers with essential equipment, and restarted Chamber offices and small businesses.  In addition, Peace Winds is supporting education with equipment assistance to the temporary Koyo Maritime High School.  Koyo's former facilities in Kesennuma were destroyed by the tsunami. 

Working with our local partners this past year has greatly strengthened the relief and recovery response of PWA.   Peace Winds America remains committed to the recovery and rebuilding of the Tohoku area and the many who continue to struggle to rebuild their lives.

PWA welcomes the opportunity to express our deepest thanks to all our donors for their commitment to disaster relief and recovery in Japan.  With partners in the U.S. and in Japan, we are making a difference.  


Peace Winds Delivers Heaters
Peace Winds Delivers Heaters

To combat the freezing temperatures of winter, Peace Winds is delivering heaters and heated carpets to 8,000 families in temporary housing in Iwate Prefecture.  One elderly woman told the Peace Winds staff, “I was getting worried about the cold weather.  I'm so grateful to receive this heater--this will help me get through this winter."  For families that lost everything in the March 11 tsunami, warmth through the winter is essential!   

Many of the temporary housing units in Iwate Prefecture lack adequate heat.  As temperatures cooled this fall, local governments identified 8,000 households that were vulnerable to the freezing temperatures.  Lacking funds, the municipal governments are seeking help.  By partnering with Peace Winds, 8,000 families will stay warm this winter.  

Peace Winds began procuring the heaters in mid-October.  All heaters have been purchased only through local retailers to spur economic activity in the disaster-affected areas.  The heaters and blankets are being delivered to the families.  Earlier in spring and summer Peace Winds provided household supplies to over 23,000 people as they moved into the temporary housing.

We at Peace Winds remain committed to serving the displaced people in temporary housing and private homes, and welcome your assistance.

Japan Disaster Survivors Bear the Cold of Winter
Japan Disaster Survivors Bear the Cold of Winter
Woman Receives Heater at Temporary Housing Unit
Woman Receives Heater at Temporary Housing Unit



Peace Winds America (PWA) and Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) are working with two fishing cooperatives in the small coastal town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi. The Shizugawa Fishing Cooperative and the Udatsu Fishing Cooperative support more than 600 members in Minamisanriku’s most vital industry.

The March 11 tsunami flattened the seaside offices of both Shizugawa and Udatsu. These offices are resource and management centers that are critical to Minamisanriku’s fishing industry. Peace Winds recently finished construction of new offices for the cooperatives, and outfitted them with equipment and technology. During the ribbon cutting ceremony on September 1st, Shizugawa President Norio Sasaki remarked that, “We are very encouraged to recover the fishing industry here.  Thank you very much.”  President Sasaki and his staff began working immediately at their new location.

Initially after the earthquake and tsunami, Peace Winds provided fisherman with rubber boots, overalls, and other supplies for underwater debris removal. The tsunami destroyed about 85% of Minamisanriku’s fleet, scattering debris throughout its port and fishing terminals. For those boats that were not destroyed, Peace Winds supplied a local shipbuilding company with tools to repair damaged vessels.

Minamisanriku’s fish market reopened in July with help from Peace Winds.  Now farmers, fishermen, and consumers have a place to gather, buy, and sell.

The fishing industry has long accounted for a large portion of the economy in Minamisanriku, and economic recovery relies on the town’s most traditional industry. Peace Winds will continue to work closely with Shizugawa Fishing Cooperative and Udatsu Fishing Cooperative to restore livelihoods and tradition in the small coastal town.



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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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