Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
Salmon news
Fish have always presented a rich source of symbolism—Christianity is suffused
with ichthyological symbols. In Japan, the cleaning of the environment in the wake
of rampant industrialisation was marked in popular and scientific discourse by the
return of fish to water habitats which they had once occupied, and in particular of
specific species of fish whose presence indicated cleaner water. Articles in national
newspapers reported sightings of this or that fish in stretches of rivers where they
had not been seen for years, and, as part of this mood of rebirth, attempts were
made to introduce salmon to the rivers of the Tokyo conurbation.
In his own published account of his promotion of the release of salmon into
Tokyo's rivers, Baba Rensei, a journalist with the Yomiuri newspaper, describes how
his initial inspiration came not from traditional Japanese practice but from the
release of salmon into the Thames in 1976 by the local Water Board 'as a symbol of
the cleansing of the [river]' (Baba 1985:18). Seven years later, one of the salmon
released there returned to spawn, and, thought Baba (1985:20), 'Would it not be
possible to launch in Tokyo the same campaign as on the Thames—to reintroduce
salmon as symbols of the cleansing of the Tama river?' In his topic, Salmon Return
to the Tama River: Nature Education Expands, Baba details, in the terms of a quasi-
spiritual quest, his campaign to win support and interest in the release of salmon in
the hope that they return to spawn. In terms of numbers of returning fish, the
campaign has been an extremely successful one, with the first certified return in
1984 and over one hundred subsequent catches of returning salmon ( Sake shinbun:
salmon news 1996: 13). Artificially incubated salmon had first been released into the
Tama river in 1877, but the modern trend was initiated in 1978 in Hokkaido (Baba
1985:172). The rivers of Hokkaido, like those of the north of the main Japanese
island of Honshu, have always been spawning grounds for salmon. There had,
however, been no solid evidence of salmon returning to spawn in rivers as far south
as those of Tokyo. This has not dissuaded others in the Tokyo region from
following Baba's lead. Yanagisawa Hiromichi, a retired glazier in his eighties, launched
a similar operation in Tokyo's main river, the Sumida, in 1993. 3
Baba's project has had a wide-ranging impact. The mayor of Setagaya Ward (an area
with a population of 700,000 people in the affluent southwest of Tokyo) has lent
official support, including space in a park for the salmon incubation tanks and
facilities for the publication of an annual newsletter, bearing the bilingual title Sake
shinbun: salmon news . An association was formed, and funds raised from prominent
individuals and organisations. Above all, a growing number of schools have become
involved. Close on one hundred, most of them junior schools, are listed in the 1996
issue of Sake shinbun: salmon news as participating in one form or another. Children
draw pictures of salmon during incubation and the hatching process; they give
speeches to mark the salmon's release. Seminars, even international conferences,
have been held for children, organised around the theme of salmon. Exchange visits
and international conferences for children have been arranged with Canada and
other countries where salmon are an important component of the natural
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