Reviving the oyster farms – for harvesting 2 years from now
The work site of this report was Sudachihama of the Oshika Peninsula.
The above photo was taken from a high area of the beach – a picturesque area famous for its seafood including oysters, flounder, shrimps and sea eels. The Tohoku coastal area is well known for its oysters, and in fact Miyagi Prefecture also produces 90% of sea eel on the market in Japan – a fact of which local fishermen and women are very proud.
Volunteers assisted the fishermen with preparing to cultivate seed oysters, hopefully to be harvested two years from now. Peace Boat volunteers have been assisting in the salvage and repair of ropes, buoys etc in the fishing ports from earlier, and this was the first time to be involved in such direct fishing industry support. Two days earlier, as volunteers had been helping together to salvage fishing items, the local fishermen asked Peace Boat if volunteers could also assist them – which was how they came to be involved today. Of course, it was the first time for all volunteers to be involved in oyster farming, so they were full of both nerves and excitement.
For safety resasons, volunteers all wore life jackets and helmets, and had a lecture on procedures, activities and cautions from the lead fishermen. From there, they embarked upon the boats.
And then the boats left the port!
Due to the main educational and cultural exhange activities of Peace Boat taking place onboard a large passenger vessel, Peace Boat staff are very used to ships and being at sea, and yet setting sail from port is still exciting for all.
Volunteers including the leader in charge of the fish and shell retrieval activities, “Southern” (below) all enjoyed their time heading towards the horizon onboard the boats.
After a few minutes sailing, we reached an area with many floating buoys, and two ropes between. One of these ropes is lifted by a winch, revealing another rope in a different direction. Lifting this, a ball of scallop shells and rope wrapped up together appeared.
Within this ball are bunches of young oysters. According to the fishermen, if the ropes are untangled and laid out they will become covered in seaweed and other shells, making them unuseable. The part of the ocean with the most nutrition is apparently 2m below the surface. Therefore, the ropes are laid at lower heights in the ocean until the planting stage, where there is less nutrition to damage them.
The bundle of young oysters is lifted up onto the boat, the rope untangled, and spread out on the deck.
As you can see, this is quite demanding work. The oysters have gathered in water and so are quite heavy, and this is all done while dealing with the rocking ship. Despite the difficulties, however, the volunteers all worked hard, keeping in mind the harvest for the fishermen two years from now.
Once all of the ropes were brought up, the group stopped for a lunch break back on shore. At the same time, a group from the Nippon Foundation – with whom Peace Boat has been collaborating in relief efforts – were working to repair the broken road to the fishing port. Mr Kurosawa, in the below photo, has been working in Ishinomaki since March, playing a significant role based on his extensive experience working in other post-disaster areas. Thank you as always, Kuro-san!
After lunch under the beautiful blue sky, with the seabreeze, the afternoon’s work begins.
First, the volunteers and fishermen returned to the ships filled with bundles of shells, and returned to the oyster site.
Upon arrival, the ropes and buoys were drifting just below the sea’s surface. From now, the volunteers stretch out the young oysters that are wrapped up in the main rope, working to have them in the right positions.
After around an hour, the fishermen called an end to the day’s work. Although some of the preparations were still unfinished, they called out that “today the local junior high school kids will be performing the local traditional lion dance, so let’s all go watch together!”
And at that, the ships returned to port, docking the ships until the next day’s work.
Volunteers in Ishinomaki are involved in all kinds of activities – we hope that you consider also joining us to enjoy the beautiful Tohoku ocean and contributing to restoring the local community’s livelihoods!