Japan's Fishing Families Struggle To Stay Afloat Tsunami-shattered fishing businesses could take years to rebuild. And for some, that may never happen. "I think it might end with me," one man says about his family's century-old fish processing company.
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On Japan's Coast, Fishing Families Weigh Rebuilding

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On Japan's Coast, Fishing Families Weigh Rebuilding

On Japan's Coast, Fishing Families Weigh Rebuilding

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

As Rob Gifford reports, rebuilding Japan's shattered fishing industry will not be easy.

YUTA SUZUKI: What can I say? What can I say?

ROB GIFFORD: Yuta Suzuki stands surveying the pride of his fishing fleet, an 800-ton vessel called the Myojinmaru. It's a beautiful boat, hundreds of feet long with a pink and white hull, sturdy enough to withstand regular trips to the Indian Ocean to catch tuna. The only problem is that it's sitting in the middle of the street that runs down to the harbor of Kesennuma. Such was the force of the tsunami that it lifted the Myojinmaru and several other huge fishing boats up, dumped them on land and then receded. Now, Suzuki has many things on his mind.

SUZUKI: Government and insurance. (Foreign language spoken)

GIFFORD: There are a lot of government assistance and insurance claim issues to sort out. But Suzuki, the third generation in his family to run the fishing business, is still grappling with the magnitude of what has happened here.

SUZUKI: Positive thinking...

GIFFORD: He and his family escaped the tsunami by a few minutes. His home is gone, and two of his employees are still missing. The boat is beached, but it's not a human being.

(SOUNDBITE OF HEAVY MACHINERY)

GIFFORD: Beside the harbor, several men are looking out over what used to be their place of work. Takashi Yao stands beside his 90-year-old father, who worked in the fishing industry all his life. Takashi has no doubt that with government help, Kesennuma will rise again.

TAKASHI YAO: We believe we can rebuild because people believe it. People want to rebuild all of these.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWS)

GIFFORD: Well, the center of the fishing industry here in Kamaishi was the old fish market here down by the waterfront. And now, it's an absolute scene of devastation. Everything is - the roof has fallen in. It's completely shredded. And like a lot of the town here, there's only one way forward, and that's to tear the whole thing down and rebuild it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MACHINERY)

GIFFORD: The tearing down part is going on already, as backhoes demolish whole streets of buildings damaged by the tsunami. But standing in his bright blue waterproof overalls, Takanori Niinuma, who runs a small fish processing plant, is not so sure that the rebuilding is ever going to happen.

TAKANORI NIINUMA: (Through translator) My family has been running this processing company for more than a hundred years. I'm the fifth generation. But I think it might end with me. We were already struggling before the tsunami, but I think this will probably be the end.

GIFFORD: Rob Gifford, NPR News, Kamaishi, Northern Japan.

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