Japanese fishermen strike against rising fuel prices

Some 3,000 Japanese fishermen, representing about 200,000 fishing boats, demonstrated in Tokyo on Tuesday against rising fuel prices. Fuel now reportedly accounts for half their operating costs.


Thousands of Japanese fishermen rallied Tuesday to protest against soaring fuel costs as boats across the archipelago sat idle for a one-day strike to draw attention to the industry's woes.

Warning soaring oil prices could put them out of business, about 3,600 fishermen gathered in a Tokyo park next to Japan's political heartland demanding emergency help including state subsidies, organisers said.

About 200,000 fishing boats -- almost the entire industry -- cancelled their trips for one day to raise awareness of their plight, a move likely to impact restaurants and dinner tables around the country.

Bearing banners reading: "Put a stop to rising fuel prices!" and "Japanese fishing boats and fish will disappear from Japan...", protesters planned to march to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to demand help.

"If we go out to sea fuel costs are too high and business has slumped into the red," said Yoshiro Kiyono, a 74-year-old fisherman from Katsuura in Chiba prefecture east of Tokyo that is famous for its bonito catch.

"I've stopped going out to sea because I can't make a profit," he added.

Oil prices have doubled over the past year and are up five-fold since 2003, hitting record heights above 147 dollars a barrel last week.

Kiyono said fuel prices had tripled compared with three years ago, describing the current oil shock as even worse than the first two in the 1970s.

Thousands of fishing boats are already sitting idle at port because fishermen cannot afford fuel. Squid fishermen went on a two-day strike last month and Japan's tuna industry is considering keeping one-third of its long-line fishing boats in harbour this summer due to high fuel costs.


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