(From the Japan Times)
Ago Bay, Japan For decades, pearl farming took a toll on the local environment in Japan. Overproduction and pollution had destroyed many of the local marine inhabitants.
"There used to be all kinds of things in the bay-- swimming crabs, clams, sea bass, mozuku seaweed, and sea cucumbers," recalls 75 year old Akira Harajo. "But for 30 years now there have been almost no eels, and for 10 or 15 years there have been no Japanese littleneck clams. And it was us pearl farmers who polluted the bay."
Farmers have realized the detrimental effects caused by raw sewage piped directly into the waters. They can see the consequences in the depletion of marine life and in the direct impact it has to the pearl quality.
In theory pearl production is beneficial to the marine environment, except in the case of the farms in Ago Bay where the overproduction of oysters led to farmers growing too many oysters. Droppings and debris covered the sea floor and benthic organisms devoured this waste. The organisms used a huge amount of oxygen and caused hypoxia that killed many fish and other sea creatures.
In 2008, Japan embraced the national policy of satoumi, a term that refers to the coastal landscapes where humans play a beneficial role in the environment. Satoumi stems from 'sato' which means village and 'umi' which means sea.
"Coastal seas must have high biodiversity and productivity. The most important thing is to consider the sea a habitat." said Tetsuo Yanagi, who coined the term 'satoumi' in 1997.
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