Renewed salmon fishing invigorates Fukushima town（「サケ漁」再開、楢葉に活気）
NARAHA, Fukushima -- Full-scale salmon fishing resumed in the Kidogawa river in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, last month, five years after the outbreak of the 2011 nuclear crisis. The sight of salmon splashing in the river has renewed the determination of the fishermen to restore both their profession and their hometown.
In September the government lifted the evacuation order issued for the town in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the resulting nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
On Oct. 18, fishermen caught about 120 salmon, from which no radioactive substances were detected. The Kidogawa local fishermen's cooperative said it aims to start selling processed salmon products as early as the middle of this month.
The fishermen caught the salmon using a method called awase-ryo, in which the fish are driven into a net as they travel upstream. Rookie fisherman Kentaro Aoki, 26, lent his unpracticed hand to the hauling efforts together with other, experienced fishermen. He began to work for the cooperative in February.
Before the earthquake, about 70,000 salmon ran the Kidogawa river each year, making it one of the best rivers in Honshu to observe large-scale salmon runs. Salmon and the river were an integral part of Aoki's life from an early age, but he said, "They were so close that I didn't given them much thought."
After the 2011 disaster, Aoki became a car salesman in the nearby city of Iwaki. He began to think more about his hometown when an acquaintance told him about the prospect of a job in the fishermen's cooperative. With a simple decision -- "I wanted to work for my hometown," he said -- he embarked on a way of life he had never before experienced. Aoki has spent his days ever since learning about the river and its bounty of salmon.
"I'm happy we can resume the salmon catch, since it's our main business," said Hideo Matsumoto, 67, the head of the cooperative. He cheered Aoki on, saying, "I hope young people will grow up to be big and strong like salmon." Kentaro Suzuki, 33, Aoki's superior and the chief of a hatchery, has high expectations for the young man, saying, "He's a rising star in our town."
Aoki caught flouncing salmon in his arms for the first time and observed the skill with which senior cooperative members hauled in the net.
"All of us look so happy when we haul in a net. I realized we really like salmon," Aoki said. The day's catch was about one-fourth the average pre-earthquake level, but that did little to dampen his sense of fulfillment.
"I'll try to make the largest catch in Honshu to satisfy the hopes of those who are looking forward to eating salmon," Aoki said.
Important tourism resources
Prior to the salmon haul, a festival was held to pray for the safety of the fishermen near the Kidogawa river in the Maebara district of Naraha. A ceremony was also held to mark the start of reconstruction work on parts of two facilities damaged by the tsunami that followed the 2011 earthquake -- a salmon hatchery and a facility to process agriculture, forestry and marine products.
"Our town's important tourism resources were restored," Naraha Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto said during the ceremony. "I want many people to visit here."
A yanaba weir was completed in March, while a portion of the reconstruction work for the hatchery and the processing facility was finished last month. The processing facility has a device to check radioactive substances.
Salmon fry will be released in the river next spring. All facilities are expected to be completed by March next year and will begin operation as soon as they are ready.
（ Translated by The Japan News ）
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