Ishikawa: Fishing fleet sets off to catch squid in Sea of Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The fishermen’s family members and friends wave to a squid fishing boat leaving the Ogi Port in Noto, Ishikawa Prefecture, on June 6.

NOTO, Ishikawa — Flying big-catch flags, six squid-fishing boats departed from a port in Noto, Ishikawa Prefecture, at around 11 a.m. on June 6 to catch surumeika, or Japanese flying squids, in the Sea of Japan.

The boats, which belong to the prefecture’s fishery cooperative, were seen off by families and friends at Ogi Port in the town, which takes pride in regularly achieving one of the largest volumes of squid catches in the country.

One of their main fishing grounds is the Yamatotai area, or Yamato Bank off Noto Peninsula in the prefecture. However, poor catches have been occurring in the area in recent years, partly due to illegal fishing by other countries including China.

This year, the boats are planning to navigate northeastward from the waters southwest of Yamatotai, along the border of the exclusive economic zone, to reach the area. Then, they may move to the Musashitai area off Hokkaido from July to August, depending on the situation.

The fishermen who run the boats, called the Ishikawa Ogi fleet, are falling on hard times because of recent poor catches in the Yamatotai area and were forced to operate in waters about 50 kilometers west of the peninsula after fishing in Yamatotai. The volume of the surumeika catch at the port hit a record low for three consecutive years until fiscal 2019, when the catch sank to 1,568 tons. The surumeika haul modestly recovered in fiscal 2020 to 2,232 tons, but the plight continues.

“I’ve heard there are more Chinese ships than last year, which is worrying,” said Yuji Mochihira, 59, the captain of the No. 18 Koyomaru fishing boat. “Yet we have no choice but to go to Yamatotai because our livelihoods depends on it. I hope the Fisheries Agency will take strict actions, such as doing on-board inspections and seizures.”

Hisaya Yamashita, 66, the head of the Ogi branch office of the fishery cooperative, said: “For the first time, I visited the Shirayama Hime Shrine this year to pray for the safety of the crew and for rich hauls. I hope they will have a better catch than an average year.”

The fleet will be joined later by other boats currently fishing for akaika, or neon flying squid, and continue with surumeika fishing through January of next year.