Hiroshima oysters

Hiroshima oysters

Ongoing social responsibility tradition

In 2019 they began working with Seafood Legacy and Ocean Outcomes to assess their environmental impacts on the marine environment and developed a way to mitigate those impacts by drawing up a new work plan.

Under the plan, fishery impacts on benthic habitats will be monitored and efforts made to decrease fishery interactions with endangered species such as loggerhead turtles and the Indo-Pacific finless porpoise. Transitioning fishery management to precautionary and science-based strategies and project participant meetings to discuss progress are also part of the new plan.

Hiroshima’s tradition of growing oysters goes back more than 500 years. All images: Seafood Legacy

Hopes are high that the new FIP will be a unique opportunity for Hiroshima, and indeed Japan, to establish a strong sustainability aspect to its rich oyster tradition and cement its role as a culinary and sustainability leader.

‘The Hiroshima oyster fishery participating in the FIP was established in 1962 and is one of the oldest oyster fisheries in Japan,” Shunji Murakami said.

Processing oysters taken from waters in Hiroshima prefecture

‘It has a long tradition of quality and social responsibility, and is a very prized and respected fishery but to-date hasn’t been well recognised for its environmental merits or by seafood companies and retailers with environmental standards and requirements. The FIP will help the fishery get the recognition it deserves. A transition to best sustainable fishing practices will also ensure the long-term viability of the fishery and the health of the Hiroshima marine ecosystem on which the fishery depends.’

Fresh oysters heading for the processing plant

As the oyster FIP gets underway, there are some outstanding issues to consider, he said. Japanese seafood consumption rates have declined gradually, but noticeably more among younger generations who find seafood unpleasant to prepare and cook.

Seafood for this demographic is comparatively highly priced and harder to prepare than other types of food such as processed meat. Meanwhile, due to the global climate change, Japan has paid out record insurance coverages to cover financial loss from natural disasters over the past few years, including typhoons and red/blue tides.

Together, these trends have had a negative impact on the productivity of oyster fisheries and the local oyster economy. Other natural phenomena such as ocean acidification can also have negative impacts on shell production and kill oyster larvae.

However, things are looking hopeful. Sustainable seafood is still a relatively new but growing concept in Japan. As in many countries where the sustainable seafood movement is just taking root, Japanese seafood consumption trends don’t necessarily prioritise seafood products that are environmentally friendly, despite Japan’s love for seafood and high per capita consumption rates.

Oyster production at Kurahashijima Kaisan Co

Raising awareness of the need for sustainable seafood production, through FIPs and other market-supported initiatives, has played a key role in the growing recognition of the need for sustainable seafood and related efforts, which can help ensure the health of Japanese fishery ecosystems and the long-term supply of seafood.

New FIPs are also under development in the country.

The team behind the Hiroshima oyster FIP

‘Towards the goal of growing sustainable seafood production in Japan, a number of additional FIPs are in the works, some of which will potentially be launched in 2020,’ said Perry Broderick, Communications and Systems Director at Ocean Outcomes.

‘While discussions with fisheries are confidential, we can say that we continue to get more and more inquiries from Japanese fisheries and farms, which are looking to improve and differentiate their products in the marketplace.’