SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Sitka's Gift of Kazunoko
By Jake Ingman


April 04, 2011

Japan is the major buyer of herring sac roe, called kazunoko. Kazunoko is traditionally eaten on New Year's Eve, often given as a gift. Kazunoko means many children and symbolizes fertility and family prosperity. In recent years, American fast food places have changed the taste of Japan s youth. Strong herring returns have produced more roe, while the demand in Japan has shrunk. Japan only wants half of this year's quota. Some see this as a reason to shut down this industry, but is that a good idea?

I've been commercial fishing in Alaska with my dad for most of my life. In 2008, I finally got the chance to take part in the amazing herring sac roe fishery. Since I started, the herring returns and our catch quota have grown (2008 14,386 tons. 2009 14,504. 2010 18,293). Fishermen know escapement and growth are vital components to our industry. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game does an excellent job managing this resource. This year, the quota increased to 19,490. Generating income is important in this recession. Many people depend on this fishery.

An estimated 600 people travel to Sitka for work related to this fishery and several locals are hired for various jobs, divers, holding corks, etc. National Geographic's documentary introduced it to the world. It has become a tourist attraction, bringing money from out of state. Important money, spent on food, fuel, and entertainment. As reported on KCAW, last year the sac roe fishermen grossed $12 million, which is $5-million more than Sitka s halibut harvest and over twice the value of local salmon trolling. The seven Sitka herring permit holders earned $2 million. So how do we save this industry?

America is the land of blended cultures and shared traditions. Japanese cuisine has become increasingly popular in America. Icicle Seafoods Inc's website states that fish roe is becoming increasing popular on the US market, most of it being consumed at sushi restaurants. Sushi restaurants are plentiful in the US. My kids love Japanese food.

Let's not count Japan out, either. Tastes change and their youth could return to kazunoko, especially with an abundance bringing their price down. The tsunami created many serious problems for Japan, including a food shortage. There are people starving all over the world, even in America. Fishermen provide food. Alaska's wild seafood is 100% natural, even better than organic. Can we afford to lose this valuable source of protein?

People need food and money. Fish roe is becoming popular in the US. Shutting this industry down is a dangerous idea. My hope is to get more people to try kazunoko, then spread the word about this delicacy, and everyone should request it at their local sushi places. Or maybe even inspire the creation of a charity that donates gift packs of kazunoko to Japan. Kazunoko is traditionally given as a gift, and America is incredibly charitable in times of crisis. What better gift than food, especially one that symbolizes family prosperity?


Jake Ingman
Sitka, AK

About: "I'm a proud father, a writer, and a 3rd generation Alaskan commercial fisherman."

Received April 02, 2011 - Published April 04, 2011



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Ketchikan, Alaska