Seafood Show Osaka: New squid sources, new eco-label support systems

Published on
March 1, 2019

The 16th annual Seafood Show Osaka was held 20 to 21 February and featured new processing methods, new sourcing for cephalopods, and new eco-label support systems. 

Located in the ATC hall, the show had around 500 exhibitors and 20,000 visitors. The show also shared its venue with the Agrifood Show, which had 472 booths featuring agricultural products from Japan’s 47 prefectures. 

Cephalopods were a big feature of this year's Seafood Show Osaka. Perum Perikanan Indonesia (Perindo), based in Jakarta, introduced a new line of octopus products that have been processed into a flower shape, something Jeri Srinur – trading supervisor for Perindo – said is popular in Japan. Currently in short supply, cephalopods like squid and octopus are in high demand, and new supplies have been welcomed. 

Another new squid supplier was Anzeco Ocean. The main business of the Kuala Lumpur, Malayasia-based company is rental of mobile generator sets, but it has branched out into the operation of modern Japanese-style squid-jigging vessels. 

Squid are commonly taken as bycatch in other manual fishing in Malaysia, but the company claims to be the first to introduce modern squid-specific vessels with bright lights for night fishing and automatic electric reels, according to Anzeco Ocean Vice President Norzaity Othman, who attended the show looking for buyers in Japan. 

The company is now operating three modern vessels and plans to increase this to five. It offers cuttlefish and two species of squid: Loligo chinensis and Loligo sibogae. These are different from the Japanese flying squid and Argentine shortfin squid more familiar to the Japanese market. The product is frozen as sea and offered in the round, unprocessed. 

Rumi Japan, a leading yellowtail processor and exporter based in Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture, was at the show promoting its “tasteless smoke” process. Salesman Toshikazu Hirose told SeafoodSource that injecting and infiltrating taste-free and smell-free smoke inside the yellowtail loin prevents oxidation and maintains color. Hirose said that it also maintains a springy texture. 

Particularly in yellowtail, discoloration of the dark red muscle meat is a problem that every processor is trying to address – some with special feeds containing citrus or green tea extracts. In addition to tasteless smoke, achieved through filtering out impurities, the company uses the ikejime method of bleeding and removing the spinal nerve using a blast of air pressure rather than the traditional rod.

Hamo (Muraenesox cinereus) - usually translated in Japan as “pike eel,” but also called “dagger-tooth pike conger” - was displayed at many booths. Hamo is a traditional food of the Kansai region around Osaka and Kyoto, but Yuki Tanaka of JF (Japan Fisheries Cooperatives) Shikoku, based in Kagawa Prefecture, said that the stock of pike eel has gradually risen, so fishermen are looking for new products and sales outlets. The season runs from May through October, with the peak in June and July. Kagawa Prefecture Fisheries Cooperative was promoting a hamburger steak made from pike eel at the show. 

Another exhibitor, Ehime Seafood Service, based in Yawatahama, Ehime Prefecture, was also offering pike eel - specifically, a fillet with the bones cut up at JPY 2,400 (USD 21.54, EUR 18.94) per kilogram.

Pike eel has many fine hair-like bones that previously had to be either carefully picked out or cut small with a knife, which makes them edible. About 10 years ago, a machine process for this cutting was developed, which has increased the popularity of the fish. 

Though originally a Kansai region specialty, a staff member said that it is now sold more in the Kanto (Tokyo) region, as foreign tourists who have tried it in Kyoto have begun requesting it in Tokyo, too. The company also promotes the Cells Alive System (CAS), a line of commercial freezers manufactured by ABI Corporation of Chiba, Japan that it claims preserves food with greater freshness than ordinary freezing by using electromagnetic fields and mechanical vibrations to limit ice crystal formation, which destroys food texture.

Hiroshima Shinomiya, of the Tokushima City-based Hiro Corporation, said that pike eel is most commonly served with a dressing of white miso paste or bainiku ume-plum concentrate. The company specializes in pike eel and sells fillets in various forms and various set dishes. Tokushima Prefecture has the largest landings of pike eel in Japan.

The show also featured seminars and presentations, among which was one by Yoshioki Oozeki, Ph.D., Senior Advisor for the Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency about new systems being developed to make good on Japan’s Olympic sustainable sourcing commitments, on Marine Eco-Label (MEL)’s commitment to Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) benchmarking, and to effect stock assessments for over 200 species, as required by Japan’s recent fisheries reform. 

The talk focused on introducing two new systems: MuSESC (short for Multi-task Support system for Ecolabeling and Seafood Certification) and SH "U" N (short for Sustainable, Healthy, “Umai,” Nippon). 

The MuSESC is a cloud-based server system supporting the acquisition of fishery products certification. The system allows data to be entered in a template, which can then be used for any eco-label program. 

SH "U" N is another cloud-based system to manage the documents and information collected and organized by the project that can efficiently search data. Consumers can use it to get more background on the sustainability of various species, including a point system covering many criteria. 

These tools are expected to make it easier for small fisheries to prepare for eco-label certification. High cost is one of the reasons international programs like Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) have found limited traction in Japan.

There are similarities between SH "U" N  and Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch, and the two organizations have been in close contact throughout SH “U” N’s development, Oozeki said.

“We talked to Monterey Bay many times when we were designing this system," Oozeki said.

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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