Material maker tries to revive seaweed beds(浪江「日化ボード」藻場復元挑戦)

Hidenobu Asada holds a wooden fiber cement board to be installed on the seabed in Onahama fishing port in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, last month. The Nikka Board president is trying to defeat groundless fears caused by the nuclear crisis and find a way out of the difficult situation by launching a new project.(海底に設置する木毛セメント板を手にする朝田さん。風評被害に屈することなく、新たな事業に活路を見いだす=12月15日、いわき市・小名浜漁港)

NAMIE, Fukushima -- A construction material maker based in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, has embarked on a project to restore seaweed beds using wooden fiber cement boards, in the hope of reviving the fishery environment in the prefecture and boosting demand for locally produced wood.
 Nikka Board started in mid-December an experiment to prove the boards will be effective in restoring seaweed beds in Onahama fishing port in Iwaki.


 The project is the first of its kind in the prefecture, and the company hopes it will also help expand the applications of its products amid sluggish business in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the following nuclear crisis in 2011.


 Nikka Board resumed operations at its headquarters in the Kitakiyohashi district of Namie in April 2013. The district is located in an area designated as where preparations should be made for the return of residents who have been evacuated.
 Due to groundless fears following the nuclear crisis, Nikka Board has faced significant declines in orders. Its overall sales also have yet to recover to the level before the disaster.
 The company is now trying to commercialize seaweed reefs, (see clip) which are indispensable for the formation of seaweed beds, by installing the boards -- made of cement and shredded wood -- on the seabed. The boards are wrapped with threads to which spores of seaweed are attached.


 Wooden fiber cement boards are construction materials with excellent thermal insulation and fire-proof capabilities. The method of growing seaweed by using such boards has been used to revive seaweed beds in Minamata Bay in Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, which was severely damaged by polluted water that caused Minamata disease.
 To launch the project, Nikka Board received technical training from the Minamata fishery association and other relevant organizations. The company also obtained cooperation from the Shimokajiro abalone fishery association in Iwaki and the Fukushima prefectural fishery experimental station.


 "Unless something is done, things won't return to their original state," said Nikka Board President Hidenobu Asada while looking at boards being installed at Onahama fishing port. The project involves huge risks, as it generates costs and the experiment will take several years. However, Asada, 66, firmly said, "This project will lead to reconstruction of the entire Tohoku region."


 For Asada, reconstruction means the revival of local fishery and forestry industries. Reviving seaweed beds will be a step forward for restoring marine resources for coastal fishery in the Tohoku region, which has been suffering from "coralline flat," a phenomenon in which seaweed decreases, because seaweed reefs were washed away by the tsunami.
 If the boards are recognized as a material for seaweed reefs, this is also expected to boost demand for wood produced in the prefecture, which has been affected by the nuclear accident.


 "It's an excellent project in terms of technology and continuity. I hope it will lead to an expansion in seaweed beds and a boost in the demand for wood," said Michihiro Otsubo, a 55-year-old staff member responsible for promoting open innovation projects at the Kumamoto Institute of Invention and Innovation in Kumamoto Prefecture, which is supporting the technological transfer.

( Translated by The Japan News )


 Seaweed reef
 An artificial board installed on the seabed to breed seaweed. In an experiment led by the Kumamoto prefectural government, wooden fiber cement boards were proved superior to concrete boards in nurturing seaweed. Sound growth of seaweed leads to the restoration of seaweed beds, which are essential for the formation of a rich fishery environment to see spawning and the growth of fry.


【 2015年12月16日・本紙掲載 】