Major red tide damage to sea urchins, salmon, etc. 16 Eastern Hokkaido coastal municipalities request aid from Hokkaido government

Shiranuka Mayor Tanano Takao (front right) hands red tide damage cause-assessment report and formal request for aid to fishers to Governor Suzuki Naomichi (front left)

On October 7, five coastal cities in the Kushiro region announced that the amount of damage to fishery sources including salmon and sea urchins is currently estimated to potentially rise to approximately 2.8 billion yen, due to the problem of ongoing fishery damage thought to be caused by red tides along Eastern Hokkaido coasts. Taking into account the Tokachi and Hidaka regions as well, the total amount of salmon that have died throughout Hokkaido territory is 19,600 (as of October 6), and the monetary damage amount is expected to rise higher in the future. Mayors of 16 municipalities in four regions, including the Nemuro region, met with Hokkaido Governor Suzuki Naomichi at the Hokkaido Government Office on October 7 and requested aid for fishers.

The five coastal municipalities represented from the Kushiro region were the city of Kushiro and the towns of Kushiro, Shiranuka, Akkeshi, and Hamanaka. The Hokkaido government reported that at the Fishery Cooperative Association for this region, in addition to 8,300 salmon, damage has struck other sea life including sea urchins, kelp, and whelk. 50% to 90% of sea urchins have died in areas under that Fishery Cooperative Association, and the Hamanaka Fishery Cooperative Association has also recently discovered that over 90% of sea urchins have died in their area. The Erimo Fishery Cooperative Association (Hidaka region) discovered 8,100 deaths among barfin flounders, including both parent and juvenile barfin flounders.

Among the affected sea life, sea urchins in particular take four to five years to mature to the point where they are ready to harvest and ship, so the shock to sea urchin fishers is immense. Tanano Takao, President of the Hokkaido Association of Towns and Villages and Mayor of Shiranuka, visited the Hokkaido Government Office. He presented a damage cause-assessment report and strongly urged for aid to fishers with the statement, “This recent red tide incident is a serious calamity.” In response, Governor Suzuki announced, “I want to create a firm framework for fishery job security.” He indicated that he is considering issuing an emergency request to Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Kaneko Genjiro.

In related news, on October 7 the Hokkaido Government officially announced that in sea water sampled from the Pacific Ocean coast, toxic plankton that prefers low water temperatures was discovered. The amount of toxic plankton was higher than any other kind of plankton in sea water sampled along the coastal area from town of Akkeshi in the Kushiro region to the town of Urakawa in the Hidaka region. This toxic plankton is thought to be the cause of red tides in some marine regions.