NY1 Reports: Fishing Industry Works To Rebound In Hardest-Hit Japanese City
In the latest installment of his series on the first anniversary of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Dean Meminger reports from the city that suffered the most deaths – as well as the devastation of its massive fishing industry.
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Wholesale bidding for fresh fish. It's a sign the marine industry is slowly returning to Ishinomaki City in Japan.
In the northern areas of Japan hit by the earthquake and tsunami, nearly all of the fishing businesses were destroyed. Ports, buildings, boats and jobs were all gone.
Prior to the disaster, the Ishinomaki Fish Market was one of the biggest and busiest in Japan. Now operating out of a temporary facility, it does about 20 percent of the business it used to.
"Within three years I am planning to construct a permanent facility," says Ishinomaki Fish Market President Kunio Sunou of the rebuilding efforts. "It will not only be for the selling of fish, but also an evacuation area for when the next tsunami hits. In addition, it will be a learning center about marine life, and a tourism site."
At the smaller Miyamoto Marine Products company, the business of processing and canning fish has just restarted. Workers say it's hard for the company to stay afloat because they're working in a temporary facility and don't have all of their equipment.
They also say they don't have access to all of the fish they use to. That's because all of the marine businesses aren't operating yet.
Professor Toru Takanarita, a member of Japan's reconstruction design council, says it's going to take $200 billion and many years to rebuild the devastated areas in northern Japan.
Takanarita says the fishing industry has an additional problem: the nuclear plant meltdown that occurred during the disaster.
"Some fish have some radiation," he says. "And many consumers don't like to buy the fish from the northern area."
When the earthquake and tsunami hit, Ishinomaki City lost the most residents. Of the 20,000 people who lost their lives across northern Japan, 5,000 were killed in Ishinomaki.
Professor Koichi Ohtsu of Ishinomaki Senshu University says it's hard for him to look at devastation that remains. But he is optimistic that his community will recover.
"We will be rebuilt as a new city," says Ohtsu. "As a place where we can live again together."
Steven Corbett is trying to do just that. A California native, he teaches in Ishinomaki City. His friend and fellow teacher Taylor Anderson was killed in the disaster, along with several of his students.
Despite the grief, he says its important that he remains.
"I thought that there were people here who would enjoy me being around if I could continue my work," Corbett says. "I go to the schools to play with the kids and kind of cheer them up a little bit, just to show them that life goes on. That somebody is willing to come back for you."