Chiba, Japan-based supermarket chain Aeon will begin sales of Marine Stewardship Council-certified Mushiake Okayama Prefecture raw oysters at 54 stores in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, and Okayama prefectures.
The price is JPY 398 (USD 3.64, EUR 3.30) plus tax for a pack containing 110 grams of oyster meats.
Aeon has been promoting sales of products from sustainable fisheries since 2006, when it started handling marine products with MSC certification. The company now sells 43 MSC-labeled products from 25 fish species – the most of any Japanese retailer – and is continuing to increase that number. It also sells 19 items from 10 fish species with Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification. Unlike many of its competitors, the company has chain-of-custody (CoC) certification, which allows it to repack and label certified products, which it does with rice balls and sushi sets. Retailers without such CoC certification can still sell certified products, but only in their original packing.
The port town of Mushiake is already well-known for its local oyster festival, at which its oysters are used to top okonomiyaki (like a cabbage and batter pancake). The oysters are from a hanging oyster fishery, a method of cultivation considered less disturbing to the sea bottom than dredging and therefore considered more environmentally friendly.
Aeon touts the product as Asia’s first MSC-certified hanging oysters. However, ASC-certified farmed oysters were already offered at competitor Seven & i group’s Ito-Yokado stores. This product is the result of a project advanced by the Tokura Office of the Miyagi Prefecture Fisheries Cooperative’s Shizugawa Branch. Ito-Yokado joined the project at an early stage, in 2011, and first sold the product in October 2016. This was the first sale in Japan of ASC-certified farmed oysters.
The MSC webpage notes that on 12 December Maruto Suisan Co. Ltd., based in the Aioi City, Hyogo Prefecture, achieved MSC certification of sustainability for its oyster fishery in the Seto Inland Sea, the first rope grown oyster fishery in the world to receive MSC certification, making it likely Maruto Suisan is the supplier of the Aeon product. The MSC certification was actually awarded to an affiliate fishery of Maruto Suisan that grows seed oysters from Okayama Prefecture on ropes suspended from rafts in the waters of the Seto Inland Sea off the coast of Okucho. The fishery harvested 1,500 metric tons (MT) of oysters in 2018, 80 percent of which were grown from seeds from Okayama.
Photo courtesy of Aeon