Sanriku fishermen prepare houses to lure young workers

Sanriku fishermen prepare houses to lure young workers

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Shota Abe, left, and others stand inside a vacant house they are remodeling to accommodate fishermen in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on June 29.

4:00 am, July 23, 2015

The Yomiuri ShimbunSENDAI — Local fishermen of Miyagi Prefecture’s Sanriku region, which was struck hard by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, are to begin the new challenge of setting up shared houses by remodeling vacant houses for young people who aspire to become fishermen. They hope this will help solve a severe labor shortage in the local industry due to the disaster.

The number of official members of the local fishermen’s associations in Miyagi Prefecture dropped by about 30 percent compared to the pre-quake fiscal 2010 figure, according to the Miyagi prefectural fishermen’s cooperative and others. Many old fishermen quit their professions after losing their fishing vessels to tsunami and failed to find young people to be successors to their business.

“Our industry will be ruined unless we find successors from outside,” became an urgent refrain in the community.

Spurred by this, Shota Abe, a 29-year-old local seaweed farmer, and Shingo Suzuki, a 27-year-old local silver salmon farmer, came up with the idea to build shared houses to combat the lack of accommodations available. Abe, an Ishinomaki resident, and Suzuki, an Onagawa resident, are also members of Fisherman Japan, an organization that promotes the fishery industry in the Sanriku area.

They are currently remodeling two vacant houses in Ishinomaki and Onagawa. Both are wooden one-story houses built about 40 years ago and belong to their relatives. After the remodeling, each house will have three individual rooms and a common space.

Former postal clerk Shinsuke Oizumi, 30, has decided to move into the shared house in Ishinomaki. Oizumi is currently training to be a fisherman, after moving from Shiogama in the prefecture. Although he does not have any experience as a fisherman, he said, “I’m determined to fish for the rest of my life here.”

Abe and Suzuki are also planning to accept seasonal part-time workers.

“I want to build more and more shared houses where young fishermen can live on the beach of Sanriku in an effort to increase the number of young people as much as possible,” said Abe.