Govt weighs law revision to boost tourism at fishing ports

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Oma fishing port is seen in Oma, Aomori Prefecture, in March 2021.

The government is considering a law revision to facilitate the development of tourist facilities at fishing ports, according to sources.

Currently, the Law on Development of Fishing Ports and Grounds defines fishing ports as bases for mooring boats and processing marine products, among other purposes, and restricts the building of tourist attractions, such as fishing ponds and restaurants. The envisaged law amendment aims to expand the use of these ports to help revitalize fishing villages.

According to the sources, the government aims to submit a bill to revise the law to an ordinary Diet session scheduled for January.

Under the current law, fishing port developments by local governments and other relevant entities are limited mainly to breakwaters, quays, parking lots and processing facilities. At some ports, however, private-sector firms have established successful businesses such as conveyor-belt sushi restaurants and cafes. But there have been cases in which local governments have been forced to return a portion of central government subsidies allotted to develop fishing port sites, because commercial establishments are not regarded as fishing port facilities.

In light of this, the central government plans to include in the bill a provision that will allow private business operators to build facilities at fishing ports to help rejuvenate local communities. The envisioned revision will allow local governments to consolidate existing port facilities and to lease vacant land and facilities to private firms.

Currently, the Fisheries Agency limits the use of fishing port facilities to 10 years, in principle. Though there have been instances of renewal, observers have pointed out that 10 years is too short a period for private operators to devise proper management plans, leading the agency to consider extending its timeframe.

In a survey conducted by the agency in September 2020, 724 of 2,790 fishing ports nationwide said vacant-space usage should be promoted. Many respondents expressed high hopes that such spaces could be used for hotels, fishing ponds and commercial complexes including restaurants and direct sales outlets, among other facilities.

Fishing village populations have been declining and aging. Over the next five years, the central government aims to increase the annual number of visitors to fishing ports to 22 million from about 20 million, by launching 500 related projects across the nation.