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Squid shortage likely to persist for 3 years

  • JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI

    In Japan, squid is used in popular home dishes such as sashimi and is also sold in a form that is dried overnight.

TOKYO >> Poor catches of surume-ika, or Japanese common squid, are likely to continue this year. The squid is used in popular home dishes such as sashimi and is also sold in a form that is dried overnight.

According to a long-term forecast about fishing conditions by the Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency, arrivals of surume-ika squid to sea areas near Japan will likely be almost the same or lower compared with those of last year, when catch volumes of the squid were at a record low.

SURUME-IKA SQUID

Surume-ika is a species of squid that lives in wide sea areas near Japan. The species is also called ma-ika in Japanese. Other squid species are eaten in Japan, such as aka-ika (neon flying squid) and aori-ika (bigfin reef squid). Of over 170,000 tons of squid caught as seafood annually, the largest portion is surume-ika. In Japan, squid is used in popular home dishes such as sashimi.

Many fisheries experts share a view that the poor catches have been affected by decreases in the number of eggs the squid lay due to the decreasing seawater temperature in the East China Sea during recent years.

As the poor catches of the squid will likely continue for three years, seafood processing companies and other related businesses are deeply worried. The peak periods of catching the squid are summer to autumn.

According to the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations (JF Zengyoren), catch volumes of surume-ika squid had been around 200,000 tons until 2011.

But the figure fell to 110,000 tons in 2015 and to 60,000 tons in 2016, showing rapid decreases.

Yasunori Sakurai, head of the Hakodate Cephalopod Research Center and an expert in the ecology of surume-ika, said, “If seawater temperature rises, arrivals (of the squid) will increase. But it is unknown whether (the catch volumes) can rapidly recover.”

Hiroshi Nonoyama, a director of Zenkoku Ika Kakogyo Kyodo Kumiai, a national federation of associations of businesses processing squid into seafood, said, “We have continued to be in a situation in which there are no surume-ika to be processed. Frozen stocks have also run out. Some business operators are known to have discontinued this line of work.”

In the town of Esashi, Hokkaido, the 19th annual Ikasashi Matsuri festival, at which live surume-ika sashimi is served to visitors, was canceled this year. An official in charge of the organizers said, “Because of the poor catches, we can’t afford to hold the event.”

Wholesale prices of surume-ika have been on the rise since three years ago.

On the shelves of Saito Suisan, a fresh fish retailer in the Tsukiji Outer Market in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, raw surume-ika squid, which are priced at 700 ($6.35 U.S.) to 800 yen each on days when the prices are high, are displayed. A Saito Suisan employee in charge said, “They are fresh high-quality products, but the prices are nearly double compared with those several years ago.”

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