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ผู้เขียน หัวข้อ: JAPAN; Sea cucumber boom threatens stock  (อ่าน 4611 ครั้ง)
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« เมื่อ: มกราคม 30, 2007, 03:52:44 PM »

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun  World News    30/01/2007 17:41:50
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Mari Sugiura, Tsukasa Sano and Tsuyoshi Ogura
The price of domestic sea cucumbers is soaring due to rising exports to China, where the popularity of the delicacy is growing.

 

Dried black sea cucumbers are particularly popular in China as a premium food. The fondness for the product has pushed up exports by several billion yen a year, giving it the nickname "the black diamond of the sea."

 

Although the boom offers momentum for the fishing industry, some are concerned over a decline in stock due to large catches and smuggling.

 

"There are some big ones are in today's catch," an upbeat fisherman said recently at Shinyasuura Port in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.

 

"Be careful, it's heavy," said another.

 

The sea cucumbers that arrived in the port are weighed and boxed quickly by the fisheries cooperative employees.

 

"I caught 80 kilograms of sea cucumbers in 90 minutes," said a beaming Tatsuo Watanabe, 30.

 

Shipments of black sea cucumbers from the port began in 2003.

 

Black sea cucumbers used to be unpopular as a raw dish and ones caught in nets were often thrown away. But now they are a leading marine product. Whereas black sea cucumbers previously fetched about 300 yen per kilogram, as of January they have been going for about 900 yen per kilogram.

 

Export statistics on sea cucumbers and related products first appeared in the Finance Ministry's data in 2004.

 

Export volume of sea cucumbers reached 222 tons in 2004, and rose to 230 tons in 2005 and 245 tons up to November 2006. The export value rose from 5.4 billion yen in 2004, to 7.8 billion yen in 2005, and jumped to 10.9 billion yen up to November 2006. The expansion in trade is unusual for a marine product.

 

Ninety percent of the exports are shipped to China and Taiwan.

 

Dried sea cucumbers are a premium delicacy in China comparable to shark fins and sparrow nests. Demand is rising from increased procurement due to the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games and the rise in consumption of luxury foods among the rich, said Masaru Uehara, 51, a managing director of Wan Fu Lin Co., a food wholesaler in Yokohama's China Town.

 

Particularly popular are sea cucumbers with long fat projections on the body, which are commonly found in a variety from Hokkaido.

 

Sea cucumbers, called hai shen in Chinese, are an important ingredient in Chinese herbal medicine.

 

Some companies are stocking black sea cucumbers on speculative buying, which is spurring the price surge.

 

Meanwhile, instances of smuggling and theft of sea cucumbers also are increasing.

 

Last year, the Japan Coast Guard apprehended four fishing groups from Ehime Prefecture, off Muroran and Date, Hokkaido. In May, executives from a fisheries cooperative in Chiba Prefecture were arrested off Yokohama in Tokyo Bay for smuggling.

 

Four men broke into a sea cucumber drying facility in Morimachi, Hokkaido, in December, tied up factory employees, and stole about 160 kilograms of sea cucumbers being dried.

 

Fully dried sea cucumbers can fetch more than 70,000 yen per kilogram.

 

Aomori Prefectural Fisheries Research Center Aquaculture Institute in Hiranaimachi, Aomori Prefecture, which is studying artificial incubation of sea cucumbers, receives many inquiries from companies in the prefecture on building breeding facilities.

 

"If this trend continues, we could run out of natural sea cucumbers," an official at the institute said.

 

"Sea cucumbers do not breed easily, so they could become extinct if the boom continues," said Assistant Prof. Seiichi Okumura of Kitasato University's School of Fisheries.



Source or related URL: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp
 
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