Mayor Kirk Shares Lessons from Japan with Fisheries Commission

On July 17th, Mayor Carolyn Kirk shared a presentation with the Gloucester Fisheries Commission based on her June economic development trip to Japan. The event highlighted food safety (most of the seafood in Japan is consumed raw, so it has emerged as a global leader in safe seafood production), “traceability” (Japanese consumers insist on knowing if their seafood came from the wild or was farmed, was frozen or thawed, etc.), food tourism and trade opportunities for Gloucester.

As the mayor has shared with many stakeholders, the trip raised awareness that Gloucester fisheries and seafood producers can benefit from a higher profile in the single-largest seafood importing nation in the world. Japan buys more than $15 billion of fresh seafood and aquaculture products per year and the island’s citizens consume more than 120 pounds per capita annually. Representatives of local businesses in Kagoshima prefecture noted that Gloucester-sourced products would be a big hit in the nation.

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The Gloucester delegation, which included Dr. Gregory Verdine of the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute, spent time with a U.S. Commercial Fishing Specialist, Tomohiro Asakawa, where they learned that food tourism is a favorite Japanese pastime. This emerging ‘industry’ allows regions across the world to attract visitors by sharing the stories behind locally-sourced foods. For Gloucester, the history and passion that embodies the local fishing industry would be a real draw for tourists.

In Tokyo, Kirk visited Tsukiji Fish Market, the world’s largest fish market, where wholesalers sell more than 700,000 metric tons of seafood covering 400 different types of fish and shellfish each year. While the mayor did not see any Gloucester-caught tuna at the early morning auction she attended, the experience of being at the auction site of many “Wicked Tuna” landings was a real thrill.

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During her visit, Mayor Kirk made history as the first Gloucester mayor to visit sister city Tamano. Each year students from Tamano spend 10 days with host families in Gloucester, a program coordinated by Angela Sanfilippo of the Gloucester Fisherman’s Wives Association and City Councilor Bob Whynott. While in Tamano City, the mayor toured an innovative fishing project where a cooperative of local fishermen harvest seafood raised in the community’s harbor. This project allows the fishermen to earn more wages beyond those available via deep-water fishing, which is limited by federal regulations.

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