Pacific saury sells for new high in Japan, but trend of poor landings likely to continue
The 2023 fall saury fishing season in Japan has officially begun, with the initial catch sold at record high prices, but experts believe that landings throughout the season are likely to mirror last year’s abysmal catch totals.
Before the season began, the Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency (FRA) released its “2023 saury long-term fishing forecast” on 28 July. It projected the volume of saury expected to migrate toward the Pacific coast of Japan from August to December this year will be at “a low level,” mirroring last year’s brutal start to the fall season. The forecast references data gathered from surface trawl expeditions conducted in June and July.
The report states that the ratio of 1-year-old fish in the catch is likely to exceed the 58.8 percent majority which the age group comprised last year, but at least “the catch of 1-year-old fish around September will mainly be in the 110- to 120-gram range, compared with last year's 100- to 110-gram range.” Larger fish tend to sell better and give fishermen a greater chance of fetching a decent price at local markets.
The report stated that since 2019 – the first of four straight years in which Japan has recorded record low saury catches – there have been delays in the arrival of Pacific saury to Japanese fishing grounds, and it speculates that light 1-year-old fish try to put on weight in northern waters as long as possible.
The fish typically spend the summer in international waters northeast of Hokkaido and migrate south along the coast when the waters cool. In recent years, though, warmer ocean water temperatures have kept the fish in the north longer, where vessels from China and Taiwan can continue to target the stock. This year will likely follow the recent pattern.
Nevertheless, the fishing season opened for large vessels on 20 August, with smaller vessels preceding the full opening by a few days.
At about 5 a.m. on 19 August, small-vessel fishermen landed the first saury catch – amounting to 469 kilograms – at Hanasaki Fishing Port in Nemuro City, Hokkaido, selling the batch at the Hanasaki Market shortly thereafter, according to Hokkaido News UHB.
The highest-selling saury from that first landing sold for a record high price of JPY 140,400 (USD 960, EUR 881) per kilogram, nearly a trebling of last year’s high price of JPY 54,000 (USD 389, EUR 339) per kilogram.
The price increase might have been due to the ...
Photo by Chris Loew/SeafoodSource