Plentiful yellowtail stealing spotlight from fall bonito

Jiji Press
A bonito is displayed for sale in Koto Ward, Tokyo, on Tuesday.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Catches of bonito, which are in season in autumn, have been poor while landings of yellowtail continue to be brisk.

The amount of bonito caught in waters off Miyagi Prefecture, a major fishing ground for the fish, has been falling sharply, leading to increased prices.

In contrast, yellowtail harvested off Hokkaido at this time of the year is increasingly attracting attention due to its high-quality meat and reasonable prices, and also amid poor catches of fish including saury.

Bonito is in season twice a year, in spring and autumn. There were good catches off Chiba Prefecture this spring, but landings of the fish from areas off the Sanriku coast in northeastern Japan have been sluggish this autumn.

According to the Japan Fisheries Information Service Center, the amount of bonito landed at Kesennuma Port in Miyagi Prefecture in September-October totaled only about 1,900 tons, down nearly 80% from a year before.

As a reason for the slump, an official at the center cited a possible decrease in schools of bonito that traveled to the north this autumn due partly to a change in seawater temperatures.

The poor catches resulted in wholesale prices of bonito from Miyagi soaring more than twofold year on year to ¥1,000-¥3,500 per kilogram at Tokyo’s Toyosu market in early November.

In particular, prices of high-quality bonito rich in fat that is in short supply have risen close to the levels for luxury domestic bluefin tuna.

Meanwhile, yellowtail catches off Hokkaido in autumn have been steadily increasing in recent years.

Data from the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry showed that the amount of yellowtail landed in Hokkaido was largest in Japan in 2021, at 14,000 tons, outpacing other major fishing areas such as Nagasaki Prefecture.

This year, too, yellowtail landings “have been brisk [since September], roughly matching last year’s levels,” a fishery industry official in the southern part of Hokkaido said.

At the Toyosu market, wholesale prices of yellowtail caught off Hokkaido stood at ¥500-¥1,000 per kilogram in early November thanks to large shipments, less than half the levels for high-quality pricy winter yellowtail from the Sea of Japan.

Yellowtail from Hokkaido is increasingly in high demand from restaurants and retailers in Tokyo.