Sister City Lends a Hand by Gifting Fertilized Salmon Eggs to Hard-hit Region in Northern Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Fertilized salmon eggs that were given to Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, by Daisen, Akita Prefecture, are seen in this photo taken in Daisen in December.

A friend in need is a friend indeed, and Daisen, Akita Prefecture, is taking the adage to heart by offering hundreds of thousands of salmon eggs for free to Miyako, its sister city in neighboring Iwate Prefecture.

Fishermen in Iwate Prefecture, which faces the Pacific Ocean, have been experiencing poor salmon catches lately. With a helping hand from Daisen, which enjoyed a rich salmon haul last year, salmon eggs taken from a prefecture on the Sea of Japan side will be hatched and released into rivers leading to the Pacific.

Officials from the Daisen city government and the local association of salmon producers on Jan. 12 safely transferred 350,000 fertilized salmon eggs to a hatchery in Miyako.

“We’re glad to be of some help to Miyako, which has been suffering from a poor salmon catch,” said a Daisen city government official in charge of the agriculture and forestry improvement section.

■ Fish breeding since Meiji era

Salmon fished from the Omono River system have been a source of protein for people who live in inland areas such as Daisen since the Edo period (1603-1867). Since the Meiji era (1868-1912), Daisen’s residents have been hatching and breeding salmon through the release of fingerlings. Salmon fished in inland waters some 60 kilometers upstream from a river’s estuary are said to be rare.

Until 1998, the fry hatched from eggs caught in other areas were released into the Omono River along with locally caught ones. Since then, however, only the fry hatched from locally caught eggs have been released in the river.

Carefully selecting appropriate conditions, such as the water temperature at the time of release based on research findings, apparently has led to increased catches in the Omono River.

Daisen’s salmon haul totaled 6,080 fish last year, according to a local association of salmon producers of the Omono River based in the city. That number fell short of the record high of 7,035 fish registered in 2019, but still hovered at a significant level — almost twice as much as the amount caught around the year 2000.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A fisherman holds a salmon caught in the Tama River in Daisen, Akita Prefecture, in December.

■ Deeper bonds since 2011 disaster

Salmon harvests on the Pacific Ocean side, including Aomori Prefecture and Hokkaido to the north, have continued to decline in recent years.

Miyako, which once boasted the largest haul of salmon anywhere on Honshu, saw its total catch plunge from about 2.25 million fish in fiscal 2009 to 180,000 in fiscal 2019.

The cities of Daisen and Miyako have deepened their ties through cooperation and assistance activities since the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 and became sister cities in October 2019.

Daisen has seen steady salmon spawning this year and decided to offer its sister city the fertilized eggs in a show of support.

“Due to a sluggish salmon haul, we have secured only about 40% of our projected quantity of salmon eggs for spawning,” said an official in charge of the fisheries section of the Miyako city government. “We’re very grateful for their free offering of salmon eggs. We are filled with gratitude.”