Pride Fish project has goal of upping Japanese consumption of local seafood

Published on
August 1, 2022
A display of "Pride Fish" at the Hotel-Restaurant Show and Foodex Japan in Kansai

As Japan’s average seafood consumption continues to wane, the country is continuing to engage in efforts to increase awareness of local fish.  

The country’s per capita seafood consumption peaked in 2001, and has been steadily declining as younger Japanese people gravitate toward meat and more Western-style cuisine. As a result, younger people are becoming less familiar with local fish options. Compounding the issue, the decline in consumption is resulting in closures local fish shops, which used to be a hub of information about seasonality and cooking methods  of local fish.

A 2011 consumer survey on fish consumption in Japan revealed many people wanted to eat more seafood for health reasons, but found meat dishes to be more delicious. Japan’s Fishery Agency has tied the downturn in fish consumption to a lack of knowledge about preparing seasonal fish dishes, as consumer data shows people still appear willing to eat seafood fish out-of-home, when prepared by a professional in a commercial kitchen.

In response, Japan's Fisheries Agency has certified easy-to-cook processed fish products as "Fast Fish" since 2012. At the same time, the agency has created the "Pride Fish Project" as a sister project to Fast Fish to  showcase local species that take more effort.

Through the program, each prefectural Japan Fisheries Cooperative group annually will featured fish, shellfish, and seaweed species for spring, summer, autumn, and winter over the next three years. This list is designed to become a resource for those who want to eat local fish and to tout the species as a local specialty for tourism purposes.

To be eligible for the program, no specific amount of landings or sales value is required, so local fish and farmed fish that have not yet received national attention are eligible. 

At the 14th annual Hotel-Restaurant Show and Foodex Japan trade show in Kansai, Japan, which took place 27 to 29 July, Takao Sawada of the Osaka Prefecture Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives was displaying baby sardines (shirasu), sand eel boiled in soy sauce (for spring), and octopus (for summer) labeled as Pride Fish.

“Local octopus gets a premium in the market over octopus imported from Mauritania,” Sawada said. “But the catches vary strongly from year to year, and this year the catch is low.”

The cooperative was also promoting other products, such as fresh wakame seaweed that were not labeled as Pride Fish. Sawada said there is not yet a strong difference in demand for Pride Fish and other products.

“The labeling had a stronger effect when the program was first started, but now it has a small effect,” he said.

Osaka Prefecture’s other featured Pride Fish for each season are salt-water eels in spring; Sardines and  sea bass in summer; Spanish mackerel, gazami crab, and horse mackerel in autumn; and red tongue sole, black sea bream, and red sea bream in winter.  

Photo by Chris Loew/SeafoodSource

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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