Prices for juvenile sardines rising in Japan

Published on
April 27, 2017

Juvenile sardines are selling for much higher prices in Japan due to low landing numbers, caused in large part by bad fishing weather.

While SeafoodSource earlier reported that mature sardines are cheaper in Japan on abundant supply, the reverse is true of juveniles. Even though spring fishing for baby sardines has begun off Kyushu and Shikoku, because of rough seas, landings have been small, creating a short-term shortage. 

The wholesale price on 20 April, 2017, at the Tokyo’s Tsukiji wholesale market was in the range of JPY 1,000 to 1,600 (USD 9.16 to 14.66, EUR 8.56 to 13.70) per kilogram, according to the Nippon Keizai Shimbun. The high end of the range, for good products with color and shape, is about 30 percent higher than at the same time last year. At retail, the product, called “shirasu” in Japan, is sold at around JPY 300 to 400 (USD 2.75 to 3.67, EUR 2.57 to 3.42) per 100 grams. 

Juvenile sardines are caught on the Pacific Coast and the Seto Inland Sea from Ibaraki to Kagoshima Prefecture. In April, at the beginning of the season, the number of landings increased in Kochi and Kagoshima prefectures, but this year, low water temperatures have delayed migrations.

Fishing goes into full swing nationwide after the Golden Week holidays in the first week of May. When landings in Hyogo and Shizuoka prefectures, which are the major production areas, begin to hit the market, the price is expected to stabilize.

Shirasu can mean dried juvenile sardines or anchovy. It is usually eaten as a topping on rice, sometimes with green tea also added. There is a regional difference in the shirasu sold in the Kanto region and the Kansai region. The former prefers a moister product, the latter a drier one. It is also called chirimen jakko.

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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