Minamisanriku Town, Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan has achieved an unusual distinction. During an event held at the town hall, city officials announced that the town has earned certifications for both the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
The accomplishment was the focus of the Symposium on International Certifications that took place in the Minamisanriku Town Hall and provided an opportunity to celebrate the town’s focus on sustainable development following the near total destruction of the area as a result of the devastating tsunami caused by the Tōhoku earthquake in March 2011.
The event included presentation from Ms Rika Sueyosh, Representative Director of Japan Ethical Association and Japan Sustainable Label Association, followed by Ms Emika Kono: FSC Japan, Key account officer, FSC Japan, and Mr Koji Yamamoto, ASC’s General Manager Japan. Minamisanriku Town Mayer Mr Jin Sato was also in attendance to highlight the town’s pledge to environmental sustainability.
“I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to Minamisanriku Town for its achievement in securing the unique combination of aquaculture and forest management certifications. The resilience of this community is admirable, and the commitment to both social responsibility and the preservation of the environment is a testament to the strong values of the people of Minamisanriku Town,” said Koji Yamamoto, ASC General Manager Japan.
“I am pleased to see a growing commitment to certification and responsible aquaculture across Japan and particularly in this region. With the achievement of both the ASC certification and the FSC certification, Minamisanriku Town will be recognised globally as a leader in the sustainability movement.”
Photo from left, Ms Rika Sueyoshi, Japan Sustainable Label Association; Mr Jin Sato, Minamisanriku Town Mayer, Ms Emika Kono, FSC Japan; Mr Koji Yamamoto, ASC General Manager Japan, Mr Sato Taichi, FSC certified forest representative; and Mr Kiyohiro Goto, ASC certified oyster farmer.
Commitment to sustainable development
Minamisanriku Town is situated in the far northeastern corner of Miyagi Prefecture. The region is known for lush forests that cascade down the Kitakami Mountains towards the Shizukugawa and Utatsu fishing villages, serving as gateways to the Shizukugawa Bay coastline just off the Pacific Ocean.
Aquaculture in the Shizugawa Bay area dates back to the nineteenth century. However, the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake not only devastated 95 percent of Minamisanriku Town, but also destroyed the area’s aquaculture sector.
The destruction of the area proved to be a catalyst for change. During the recovery, Minamisanriku Town adopted new strategies to ensure the region’s growth and sustainable development. These changes included updates in the methods used to farm oysters, including better citing to ensure that farms are not placed in areas with key biological or ecological functions, improved management of the organic deposits in the sediment beneath the farm, and rigorous efforts to minimise disease and the use harmful pesticides.
To improve outcomes for all and better manage the area’s resources and newfound commitment to sustainability, the farms joined forces to form the Miyagi Prefecture Fisheries Co-operative, Shizugawa Branch. Their efforts were recognised when the Shizugawa Branch of the Miyagi Prefecture Fisheries Co-operative became the first oyster farm in Japan to achieve ASC certification in March 2016.
Only farms that meet measurable, performance-based requirements can become ASC certified. Oyster farms certified to the ASC Bivalve Standard are required to address the key negative environmental and social impacts associated with bivalve production. The standard also imposes strict requirements based on the core principles of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), such as prohibitions in the use of child labour or any form of forced labour. All ASC certified farms are safe and equitable working environments where employees earn a decent wage and have regulated working hours.