East Asia’s baby eel catch falls from 60 tons to 1
Industry fears ‘the start of complete resource depletion’
TAKUMI SASAKI, Nikkei staff writer
Source: Asia Nikkei
February 20, 2018, TOKYO. Prices for young eels are surging to an unprecedented level in Japan due to extremely poor catches, promising to push the summertime delicacy further into the luxury realm and out of the reach of many Japanese.
Industry officials are even warning that a crisis is at hand, with eel stocks on the verge of running out.
“It’s like prices have stepped on the accelerator,” said Tetsuo Yoshida, president of eel importer Kasei Shokuhin.
Poor harvests in Japan, China, Taiwan and other locations drove the average price to 3.6 million yen ($33,240) per kilogram at the start of 2018 and to 3.9 million yen or so on Jan. 22. Last year, prices averaged 1.09 million yen.
This year’s prices are well above the 2.48 million yen average for the 2013 season, when hauls were also poor.
Some importers say they have been able to obtain only half of what they ordered from Taiwan.
Japanese traditionally eat unaju, or chargrilled eel over rice, on a certain day of summer, Doyo no Ushi no Hi. But the skyrocketing price means the prized fare may become unaffordable to a wider segment of the population.
The juvenile eel fishing season starts in November and ends around four months later. The peak usually lasts through mid-January.
East Asia, the main production grounds, so far this season has landed 1 ton of baby eels, down from last season’s 60 tons.
For businesses to grow the fry and ship them in time for Doyo no Ushi no Hi, when demand peaks in Japan, the fish must be purchased and placed in a pond by around Jan. 10.