Upon first hearing ‘Kesennuma’, one might not be too familiar with this Japanese town unless one is familiar with fishing or sources of seafood.
Kesennuma lies on the Sanriku sea waters, which along with the waters near Russia and Canada, are the world’s three largest fishing grounds. Kesennuma is naturally blessed with intricate waters, possessing both cold currents from the North and warm currents from the South. These ensure that there is a bountiful variety of marine animals that are attracted to the different sea temperatures.
The Kesennuma port is the main port along the Sanriku waters, and is Japan’s biggest processor for bonito, swordfish and even sharks. In fact, 85 percent of the locals make a livelihood out of the fishery industry.
With coastlines punctuated by plentiful fishes, the locals are still careful to maintain a healthy balance in the ocean habitat. Equipped with radars that are able to allow fishermen to determine the type of fish in the area, they are able to make better decisions to leave the area if a particular species is on the decline.
Additionally, special advanced trolling (a fishing method using long fishing lines) instead of the conventional trawling (using a wide net to fish) is practiced to enhance the possibility of catching desired species with good population levels.
When sharks or other marine animals are accidentally caught, Mottainai (the Japanese term for appreciating all parts so as to reduce wastage) of the lift is practised, and as such, the sea animal is not just processed into seafood, but its other parts are also made into handbags, supplements, and cosmetics.
These practices are upheld and encouraged by the Kesennuma Shishiori Fisheries Processing Cooperative Association, which was formed with the aim of maintaining a healthy ocean and speedy recovery of businesses; part of the Miyagi prefecture, the region was one of those hit by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.
The association works with fishermen, processors, and fish farmers (cooperatively instead of competitively) to bring about integrity in production and highly efficient manufacturing systems. This way, they strive to maintain and encourage sustainable seafood production.