Date
23 March 2017
Kiyoshi Kimura, owner of one of Japan's largest sushi restaurant chains, has come up with the ingenious idea of hiring former Somali pirates to catch yellowfin tuna for him. Photo: Bloomberg
Kiyoshi Kimura, owner of one of Japan's largest sushi restaurant chains, has come up with the ingenious idea of hiring former Somali pirates to catch yellowfin tuna for him. Photo: Bloomberg

Fancy sushi from a fish caught by pirates?

As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them. 

Given the ongoing downturn in the international shipping industry, fewer and fewer container ships are seen on the high seas these days.

As a result, many of the once notorious and fearsome Somali pirates that plagued the Gulf of Aden for so many years have been rendered jobless in recent years.

However, today, some of these risk-takers have found a new way of making a living: catching the hotly sought after yellowfin tuna for a famous Japanese sushi restaurant chain.

For years, international seafood traders have been eying the Gulf of Aden, which is rich in yellowfin tuna, one of the most popular ingredients worldwide for making sushi, the Japanese news website Harbor Business reported.

The reason they didn’t tap into this gold mine is the rampant piracy there, which basically turned the gulf into a no-go area for fishermen.

Besides, since war-torn Somalia, which has jurisdiction over the Gulf of Aden under international law, was not a member of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), it could not export any of its catch from the gulf.

And most Somali fishermen didn’t have the highly specialized equipment and vessels necessary to harvest yellowfin tuna.

The huge resource of yellowfin tuna in the Gulf of Aden was left almost untouched until the 63-year-old Kiyoshi Kimura, owner of Sushi Zanmai, one of the largest sushi restaurant chains in Japan, came up with an ingenious idea: why not tame and hire the jobless Somali pirates, who know the gulf better than anybody else, to catch the yellowfin tuna for his chain?

To his surprise, his offer was immediately welcomed by many of the unemployed Somali pirate leaders, and tens of thousands of former Somali pirates have rushed to make a career change and become fishermen.

In the meantime, Kimura helped the Somali government to officially join the IOTC, so that it can gain permits to export its catch.

Despite the fact that Kimura’s joint venture with the former Somali pirates is still in its initial stages and has yet to break even, he believes his bold business plan will turn out to be highly lucrative in the long run.

Moreover, he says sushi made from fish caught by former pirates would be quite a gimmick to attract diners to his restaurants.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 02.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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FL

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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