Challenges in Japanese eel production

JAPAN – Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica) has been eaten in Japan since ancient times. Traditionally considered a source of nourishment, its consumption is also a much-cherished custom, especially during the summer because it’s said to give the body strength to fight off fatigue in the intense heat, writes Bonnie Waycott for TheFishSite.

Today the Japanese consume around 100,000 tons, or 70 – 80 per cent of the worldwide eel catch, but in 2013 the Japanese Ministry of the Environment designated the fish as a species at risk of extinction, and in June 2014 it was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List of Threatened Species.

In Japan, aquaculture is extremely important to the eel industry’s success, with most eel caught in the wild as juveniles and then raised on fish farms. However, the overfishing of juvenile glass eels has now become a huge problem.

Fed on a diet of fishmeal and kept in fossil-fuel-heated greenhouses, eel are usually collected along the Pacific Coast between December and April and put into tanks where their chances of survival are improved thanks to heating apparatus that helps increase water temperature particularly during the winter, and a circulating filter system in which water is filtered and re-circulated.

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About the author

Jessica Hathaway

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 13 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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