Oma maguro. (Photo: Aomori Prefectural Government)
Oma tuna makes millions at Tsukiji fish market
Tuesday, March 14, 2017, 22:00 (GMT + 9)
Every year, tuna hauled in at the small town of Oma in Aomori Prefecture, dubbed “black diamonds” for their value and colour, make headlines as they are sold for millions of yen at the Tsukiji fish market auction at the start of the year, according to a Japan Times article written by Haruna Usui.
This year a 212-kg tuna reached JPY 74.2 million (USD 650,000) — the second-highest price on record.
Oma branded tuna has become popular thanks to the 1983 movie “Gyoei no Mure” (“The Catch”), featuring tuna fishermen from the town. Besides, the local fisheries cooperative has helped create the Oma brand, devising methods of maintaining the freshness of the fish, such as removing blood and nerves immediately after they are hauled in.
Local fishermen, who use long-line fishing or single-hook, hand-line fishing methods to catch tuna, earn more than JPY 30 million (USD 261,000) for a JPY 70 million (USD 610,000) tuna, after the deduction of transport costs, fees to a fisheries cooperative, taxes and other costs.
The fishing season for tuna in the narrow Tsugaru Strait extends from July to January when the predatory fish come to the passage to chase squid.
Based on the prices, it would be safe to assume that the 100 fishermen in Oma, which has a population of 5,600, ply a lucrative trade.
But in reality, only a few can make a living catching just Oma tuna.
They cannot afford the big boats needed to operate in stormy waters and some catch only two to three tuna per fishing season.
To make a living, they set out to sea almost all year-round to catch cheaper squid and octopus that are readily available.
However, that does not discourage them from dreaming about a tuna jackpot.