Kombu Harvest Starts 2 Weeks Later than Official Date in Hokkaido

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Fishing boats set out to harvest kombu off Nemuro, Hokkaido, on June 15.

NEMURO, Hokkaido — More than 190 fishing vessels gathered at Cape Nosappu in Nemuro, Hokkaido, on June 15 to harvest kombu, two weeks after the official opening of the kombu harvest season.

The vessels set out together at 6 a.m. to collect kombu in the waters off Kaigara Island, one of the Habomai Islands. The official opening of this year’s season was June 1, but the harvest was delayed due to poor growth of kombu caused by the impact of drift ice and the rise in seawater temperature.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kombu is landed at a port in Nemuro, Hokkaido, on June 15.

The fishing boats formed a straight line off the cape and set off together to the sound of fireworks and sirens, heading for a lighthouse on Kaigara Island, 3.7 kilometers away. Once they arrived, the fishermen stuck fishing gear called kagizao (a stick with a hook at one end) in the water to collect saomae-kombu, which were twirled around the sticks.

“The volume [of landings] may be the smallest ever, but the quality of the kombu is pretty good,” said Toshimi Honda, 70, who has been engaged in kombu harvesting for more than 50 years. “I want to continue with fishing [kombu] one way or another.”

As relations between Japan and Russia soured, Russia flew its flag over the lighthouse on Kaigara Island last year, as if to openly assert that the island is effectively under Russian control. With Russian patrol ships also monitoring the area this year, the kombu harvest was conducted in a tense atmosphere.

Japan and Russia have agreed that Japan’s collection quantity of brown algae, including kombu, should be 3,360 tons this year, for which Japan will pay ¥80.37 million in collection fees to Russia. Last year, Japan paid ¥82.54 million to Russia for collecting 3,451 tons of brown algae.