Quake rocks Japan, fishing ports washed out
One of the largest earthquakes ever recorded pummeled Japan on Friday, unleashing a 23-foot tsunami that swept across fishing ports in the country’s northeast region. The 8.9-magnitude quake struck at a depth of six miles about 80 miles east of Sendai, roughly 240 miles northeast of Tokyo. Hundreds of people were killed, and the death toll is likely to climb given the scale of the disaster. It was the world’s fifth largest earthquake since 1900.
“The earthquake has caused major damage in broad areas in northern Japan,” Prime Minister Naoto Kan said at a news conference.
Japan’s historic fishing port of Hakodate — which is located on the southern tip of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four major islands — was a “ghost town” after a 6.5-foot tsunami washed over it, reported Agence France-Presse; authorities urged 30,000 people to evacuate.
In Miyagi Prefecture, the fishing port of Kessanuma — Japan’s major Pacific saury port, located just north Sendai — was also hit hard, as buildings and vehicles were swept out to sea, SeafoodSource Contributing Editor Chris Loew, who lives in Osaka, well south of the earthquake’s epicenter, reported via e-mail on Friday. The quake was felt in Oaska but didn’t cause any damage, he said.
Much of Japan’s fish farming occurs in protected waters of the Seto Inland Sea and Kyushu, the most southwesterly of Japan’s four main islands, said Loew. Yellowtail, amberjack and sea bream are among the species raised there, as the fish grow best in warm water.
Ben Savage, the managing director for rice at Jackson Son & Co. in London, told the New York Times that while the tsunami is unlikely to affect global rice prices (Japan is a major rice producer) he’s concerned about the impact on the region’s fishing and aquaculture industries.
Beyond Japan, tsunami warnings blanketed the entire Pacific, stretching all the way to Canada, Alaska and the U.S. West Coast.
Samoa News reported that with the arrival of the first tsunami wave at 4:00 a.m. local time that fishing boats were encouraged to head out of Pago Pago harbor to wait out the tsunami at sea. The tsunami reached Hawaii at just past 3:00 a.m. local time, and the damage and flooding wasn’t extensive, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. In Alaska, the tsunami spawned a wave just over 5 feet at Shemya in the Aleutian Islands 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage.
The Associated Press reported that while the U.S. West Coast doesn’t expect much damage, large fishing boats are being encouraged to head out to sea, while small fishing boats are being urged to stay in port. However, the Times-Standard reported that the harbor in Crescent City, Calif., was destroyed when the first surge of tsunami waves hit, wrecking 35 boats.
Editor’s note: SeafoodSource Contributing Editor Chris Loew is based in Osaka, Japan, and will be following up on the earthquake’s impact on Japan’s fishing and seafood industries in the coming days.