Japanese governors demand state of emergency over COVID: The nation has seen a surge of infections, with a record 1,337 reported on New Year’s Eve

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The Japanese capital and three nearby prefectures have asked the national government to declare a state of emergency to curtail the surging spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 VACCINE ROLLOUT TO US TROOPS OVERSEAS GETS UNDERWAY

“In the name of valuing life, we made this plea together,” said Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike after meeting for three hours on Saturday with the minister in charge of coronavirus measures, along with the governors of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa.

Japan has seen a recent rise in reported cases of COVID-19, especially in urban areas. Tokyo saw a daily record of 1,337 cases on New Year’s Eve.

From left, Saitama Gov. Motohiro Ono, Chiba Gov. Kensaku Morita, Japan’s Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and Kanagawa Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa meet journalists in Tokyo after Tokyo and three nearby Japanese prefectures asked the national government to declare a "state of emergency" Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. (Muneyuki Tomari/Kyodo News via AP)

From left, Saitama Gov. Motohiro Ono, Chiba Gov. Kensaku Morita, Japan’s Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and Kanagawa Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa meet journalists in Tokyo after Tokyo and three nearby Japanese prefectures asked the national government to declare a “state of emergency” Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. (Muneyuki Tomari/Kyodo News via AP)

Worries are growing about hosting the Olympics, set for July, with 11,000 Olympic athletes set to enter Japan, as well as tens of thousands of officials and media.

“Corona knows no calendar,” said Koike, referring to her worries about infections being fueled by New Year’s celebrations.

Hospitals are getting packed, affecting medical care for all.”

The minister said both sides agreed the situation was critical, but medical experts will be consulted before action is decided.Video

Japan has never had a lockdown, attempting instead to juggle the need to keep the economy going with health risks. The issued warnings carry no penalties.

The government has also been sending conflicting messages with a campaign to encourage travel with discounts, although that has been discontinued.

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Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has come under criticism over what some see as his mishandling of the pandemic. Japan has had more than 3,500 deaths so far related to the virus.

Japan bars foreign visitors as new coronavirus strain spreads

BY KAELAN DEESE – 12/26/20 11:06 AM EST

https://thehill.com/policy/international/asia-pacific/531696-japan-bars-foreign-visitors-as-new-coronavirus-strain

Japan announced Saturday it would temporarily ban nonresident foreign nationals from entering the country, citing the risk of a new, highly infectious variant of the coronavirus.

The country’s travel ban will take effect on Dec. 28 and run through January, government officials said in a statement, Reuters reported.

The announcement comes as Tokyo reached a record number of new COVID-19 cases this weekend, with health officials recording 949 new cases in the capital city on Saturday.

Officials have confirmed that a more contagious strain of the virus from the United Kingdom has entered the country, with the first detected cases involving passengers arriving from Britain.

Some cases of the new strain were also found in people outside airport checks, local media reported, according to Reuters.

A recent study by British researchers found the new COVID-19 strain is 56 percent more contagious than the previous strain.

According to the latest travel ban, Japanese citizens will be permitted to enter but must verify proof of a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before departing for the nation and are required to quarantine for two weeks after arrival.

The country’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, who assumed the position in September, has received criticism from some for being too slow to react to rising virus cases in Tokyo and other major metropolitan areas throughout the country.

In response to reports of record cases, Suga urged residents to stay home, avoid New Year’s gatherings and maintain social distancing.

Earlier this month, Suga said he would temporarily halt Japan’s “Go To Travel” subsidy program, an initiative started by the former prime minister to bolster economic activity and promote domestic travel despite the ongoing pandemic.

In Japan, more people died from suicide last month than from Covid in all of 2020. And women have been impacted most

By Selina WangRebecca Wright and Yoko Wakatsuki, CNN

Updated 6:46 AM ET, Sun November 29, 2020

https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/28/asia/japan-suicide-women-covid-dst-intl-hnk/index.html

Tokyo (CNN)Eriko Kobayashi has tried to kill herself four times.The first time, she was just 22 years old with a full-time job in publishing that didn’t pay enough to cover her rent and grocery bills in Tokyo. “I was really poor,” said Kobayashi, who spent three days unconscious in hospital after the incident.Now 43, Kobayashi has written books on her mental health struggles and has a steady job at an NGO. But the coronavirus is bringing back the stress she used to feel.”My salary was cut, and I cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “I constantly feel a sense of crisis that I might fall back into poverty.”Experts have warned that the pandemic could lead to a mental health crisis. Mass unemployment, social isolation, and anxiety are taking their toll on people globally.In Japan, government statistics show suicide claimed more lives in October than Covid-19 has over the entire year to date.The monthly number of Japanese suicides rose to 2,153 in October, according to Japan’s National Police Agency.As of Friday, Japan’s total Covid-19 toll was 2,087, the health ministry said.Japan is one of the few major economies to disclose timely suicide data — the most recent national data for the US, for example, is from 2018. The Japanese data could give other countries insights into the impact of pandemic measures on mental health, and which groups are the most vulnerable.”We didn’t even have a lockdown, and the impact of Covid is very minimal compared to other countries … but still we see this big increase in the number of suicides,” said Michiko Ueda, an associate professor at Waseda University in Tokyo, and an expert on suicides.close dialog

The day’s biggest stories in 10 minutes or less.Sign up and get access to videos and weekly student quizzes.Sign Me UpNo ThanksBy subscribing you agree to ourprivacy policy.“That suggests other countries might see a similar or even bigger increase in the number of suicides in the future.”Eriko Kobayashi has struggled with her mental health in the past. She says the pandemic has brought back intense fears of falling into poverty.Eriko Kobayashi has struggled with her mental health in the past. She says the pandemic has brought back intense fears of falling into poverty.

Covid’s toll on women

Japan has long struggled with one of the highest suicide rates in the world, according to the World Health Organization. In 2016, Japan had a suicide mortality rate of 18.5 per 100,000 people, second only to South Korea in the Western Pacific region and almost triple the annual global average of 10.6 per 100,000 people.How to get help

In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.While the reasons for Japan’s high suicide rate are complex, long working hours, school pressure, social isolation and a cultural stigma around mental health issues have all been cited as contributing factors.But for the 10 years leading up to 2019, the number of suicides had been decreasing in Japan, falling to about 20,000 last year, according to the health ministry — the lowest number since the country’s health authorities started keeping records in 1978.The pandemic appears to have reversed that trend, and the rise in suicides has disproportionately affected women. Although they represent a smaller proportion of total suicides than men, the number of women taking their own lives is increasing. In October, suicides among women in Japan increased almost 83% compared to the same month the previous year. For comparison, male suicides rose almost 22% over the same time period.There are several potential reasons for this. Women make up a larger percentage of part-time workers in the hotel, food service and retail industries — where layoffs have been deep. Kobayashi said many of her friends have been laid off. “Japan has been ignoring women,” she said. “This is a society where the weakest people are cut off first when something bad happens.”In a global study of more than 10,000 people, conducted by non-profit international aid organization CARE, 27% of women reported increased challenges with mental health during the pandemic, compared to 10% of men.https://33c7dfd341e3be6134d96b23207c51f2.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.htmlCompounding those worries about income, women have been dealing with skyrocketing unpaid care burdens, according to the study. For those who keep their jobs, when children are sent home from school or childcare centers, it often falls to mothers to take on those responsibilities, as well as their normal work duties.

Third of Japanese women with mental health issues blame workplace harassment: reportIncreased anxiety about the health and well-being of children has also put an extra burden on mothers during the pandemic.Akari, a 35-year-old who did not want to use her real name, said she sought professional help this year when her premature son was hospitalized for six weeks. “I was pretty much worried 24 hours,” Akari said. “I didn’t have any mental illness history before, but I could see myself really, really anxious all the time.”Her feelings got worse as the pandemic intensified, and she worried her son would get Covid-19.”I felt there was no hope, I felt like I always thought about the worst-case scenario,” she said.

“A Place for You”

In March, Koki Ozora, a 21-year-old university student, started a 24-hour mental health hotline called Anata no Ibasho (A Place for You). He said the hotline, a nonprofit funded by private donations, receives an average of over 200 calls a day, and that the vast majority of callers are women.”They lost their jobs, and they need to raise their kids, but they didn’t have any money,” Ozora said. “So, they attempted suicide.”Most of the calls come through the night — from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. The nonprofit’s 600 volunteers live around the world in different timezones and are awake to answer them. But there aren’t enough volunteers to keep up with the volume of messages, Ozora said.University student Koki Ozora started a 24-hour mental health hotline staffed by volunteers in March. They now get more than 200 calls a day.University student Koki Ozora started a 24-hour mental health hotline staffed by volunteers in March. They now get more than 200 calls a day.They prioritize the texts that are most urgent — looking for keywords such as suicide or sexual abuse. He said they respond to 60% of texts within five minutes, and volunteers spend an average of 40 minutes with each person.

Third wave of Covid-19 looms in Japan as country preps for Olympic games

Third wave of Covid-19 looms in Japan as country preps for Olympic games 01:49Anonymously, over online messaging, people share their deepest struggles. Unlike most mental health hotlines in Japan, which take requests over the phone, Ozora says many people — especially the younger generation — are more comfortable asking for help via text.https://33c7dfd341e3be6134d96b23207c51f2.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.htmlIn April, he said the most common messages were from mothers who were feeling stressed about raising their kids, with some confessing to thoughts of killing their own children. These days, he says messages from women about job losses and financial difficulties are common — as well as domestic violence.”I’ve been accepting messages, like ‘I’m being raped by my father’ or ‘My husband tried to kill me,'” Ozora said. “Women send these kinds of texts almost every day. And it’s increasing.” He added that the spike in messages is because of the pandemic. Before, there were more places to “escape,” like schools, offices or friend’s homes.

Pressure on children

Japan is the only G-7 country where suicide is the leading manner of death for young people aged 15 to 39. And suicides among those under 20 had been increasing even before the pandemic, according to health ministry.As pandemic restrictions take children out of school and social situations, they’re dealing with abuse, stressful home lives, and pressures from falling behind on homework, Ozora said. Some children as young as five years old had messaged the hotline, he added.School closures during the pandemic in the spring have contributed to homework piling up; kids also have less freedom to see friends, which is also contributing to stress, according to Naho Morisaki, of the National Center for Child Health and Development. The center recently conducted an internet survey of more than 8,700 parents and children and found that 75% of Japanese schoolchildren showed signs of stress due to the pandemic.Morisaki says he thinks there’s a big correlation between the anxiety of children and their parents. “The children who are self-injuring themselves have the stress, and then they can’t speak out to their family because probably they see that their moms or dads are not able to listen to them.”

Stigma of solving the problem

In Japan, there is still a stigma against admitting loneliness and struggle. Ozora said it’s common for women and parents to start the conversation with his service with the phrase: “I know it’s bad to ask for help, but can I talk?”Ueda says the “shame” of talking about depression often holds people back.”It’s not something that you talk about in public, you don’t talk about it with friends or anything,” she said. “(It) could lead to a delay in seeking help, so that’s one potential cultural factor that we have in here.”

When I lived in America, I knew people who went through therapy, and it’s a more common thing to do, but in Japan it’s very difficult

Akari

Akari, the mother of the premature baby, agrees. She had previously lived in the US, where she says it seems easier to seek help. “When I lived in America, I knew people who went through therapy, and it’s a more common thing to do, but in Japan it’s very difficult,” she said.Following the financial crisis in the 1990s, Japan’s suicide rate surged to a record high in 2003, when roughly 34,000 people took their own lives. Experts say the shame and anxiety from layoffs, of mostly men at the time, contributed to depression and increased suicide rates. In the early 2000s, the Japanese government accelerated investment and efforts around suicide prevention and survivor support, including passing the Basic Act for Suicide Prevention in 2006 to provide support to those affected by the issue.But both Ozora and Kobayashi say it has not been nearly enough: reducing the suicide rate requires Japanese society to change.”It’s shameful for others to know your weakness, so you hide everything, hold it in yourself, and endure,” Kobayashi said. “We need to create the culture where it’s OK to show your weakness and misery.”

Celebrity suicides

A succession of Japanese celebrities have taken their lives in recent months. While the Japanese media rarely details the specifics of such deaths — deliberately not dwelling on method or motive — the mere reporting on these cases often causes an increase in suicide in the general public, according to experts such as Ueda.Hana Kimura, a 22-year-old professional wrestler and star of the reality show “Terrace House,” died by suicide over the summer, after social media users bombarded her with hateful messages. Hana’s mother, Kyoko Kimura, says she was conscious that media reports on her daughter’s death may have affected others who were feeling suicidal.Kyoko Kimura says coronavirus restrictions prevented her daughter, Hana, from wrestling. Hana became overwhelmed by negative comments on social media and subsequently took her own life.Kyoko Kimura says coronavirus restrictions prevented her daughter, Hana, from wrestling. Hana became overwhelmed by negative comments on social media and subsequently took her own life.”When Hana died, I asked the police repeatedly not to disclose any concrete situation of her death, but still, I see the reporting of information only the police knew,” Kimura said. “It’s a chain reaction of grief.”Kimura said the pandemic led her daughter to spend more time reading toxic social media messages, as she was unable to wrestle because of coronavirus restrictions. Kimura is now setting up an NGO called “Remember Hana” to raise awareness about cyberbullying.”She found her reason to live by fighting as a professional wrestler. It was a big part of her. She was in a really tough situation as she could not wrestle,” Kimura said. “The coronavirus pandemic made society more suffocating.”Professional wrestler Hana Kimura took her own life over the summer.Professional wrestler Hana Kimura took her own life over the summer.

The third wave

In recent weeks, Japan has reported record-high daily Covid-19 cases, as doctors warn of a third wave that could intensify in the winter months. Experts worry that the high suicide rate will get worse as the economic fallout continues.”We haven’t even experienced the full economic consequences of the pandemic,” Ueda said. “The pandemic itself can get worse, then maybe there’s a semi-lockdown again; if that happens, then the impact can be huge.”Compared with some other nations, Japan’s coronavirus restrictions have been relatively relaxed. The country declared a state of emergency but has never imposed a strict lockdown, for example, and its quarantine restrictions for international arrivals have not been as unbending as those in China.

Japanese less keen on voluntary Covid-19 restrictions amid surge

Japanese less keen on voluntary Covid-19 restrictions amid surge 02:33But as cases rise, some worry harsher restrictions will be needed — and are concerned about how that could affect mental health.”We didn’t even have a lockdown, and the impact of Covid is very minimal compared to other countries … but still we see this big increase in the number of suicides,” Ueda said. “That suggests other countries might see a similar or even bigger increase in the number of suicides in the future.”Despite having to deal with a salary cut and constant financial insecurity, Kobayashi says she is now much better at managing her anxiety. She hopes that by speaking publicly about her fears, more people will do the same and realize they are not alone, before it’s too late.”I come out to the public and say that I have been mentally ill and suffered from depression in the hope that others might be encouraged to speak out,” Kobayashi said. “I am 43 now and life starts to get more fun in the middle of my life. So, I feel it’s good that I am still alive.”

A Japanese Town Is Using Creepy Robotic Wolves to Scare Away Bears

Jonathan Small  5 hrs ago


https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/wellness/a-japanese-town-is-using-creepy-robotic-wolves-to-scare-away-bears/ar-BB1aZ6ko?ocid=msedgntp

Mich. judge rejects demand to block certificationTrump to Rush Drilling Leases in Arctic Before Biden Takes OverA Japanese Town Is Using Creepy Robotic Wolves to Scare Away Bears

There is a bear crisis in Takikawa, a town on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido. According to CNN, sightings of brown bears are at a five-year high, and bears have attacked residents, killing two people so far in 2020.https://www.youtube.com/embed/t-eZ6eAi-zY?autoplay=0&showinfo=1&wmode=opaque&modestbranding=1&enablejsapi=1&fs=1&rel=0&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.msn.com&widgetid=1Video player from: YouTube (Privacy PolicyTerms)

Experts believe the uptick in attacks is being caused by a shortage of acorns in the bears’ natural habitat, forcing the animals to wander into more populated areas searching for food.

“There is less to eat in the mountains and that is why they are coming down into villages,” Yuko Murotani, president of the Japan Bear and Forest Societ, told The Guardian.

To keep the bears at bay, Hokkaido machinery company Ohta Seiki has developed the “Monster Wolf,” a shaggy mechanical cyber wolf with blazing red eyes. According to the website JapanKyo, the scarewolf has infrared sensors, “which, when tripped, activate the LED lights in its eyes and the speaker it has in its head, which is capable of playing approximately 40 different sounds.” The cyber wolf is 4-feet long and 3-feet high. a close up of a dog© The Telegraph via YouTube https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1318076693597343746&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.entrepreneur.com%2Farticle%2F359608%3Futm_source%3Dmsn%26utm_medium%3Drelated%26utm_campaign%3Dsyndication&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

International Condemnation Of Global Shipping Grows As 47 Whales Confirmed Dead In Mauritius

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nishandegnarain/2020/08/31/international-condemnation-of-global-shipping-grows-as-47-whales-confirmed-dead-in-mauritius/?fbclid=IwAR3UJTew-6uj4dLzdp3j-mq9RsQforDBmPeoxkjLFokCf0Tn0JsVoogxakM#42648ac979a8

 

On Monday, it was revealed that 47 whales have been found dead along the South East coast of Mauritius, including pregnant females and juveniles. The numbers continue to rise each day, around the crash site and sinking of the forward section of the Wakashio.

This come amid the extreme secrecy of the operation to salvage the rear of the vessel, disposal of the removed oil and clean up the oil along the coast. The lack of transparency about the methods being used for the cleanup is raising additional concerns about any longer term risk with the use of chemical dispersants. Comparisons are now being drawn between the cleanup in Mauritius and the hushed-up oil spill and cleanup operation in Venezuela earlier this month in its famous Morrocoy National Reserve.

Already, there were concerns about the controversial decision to deliberately sink the forward section of the Wakashio in an undisclosed location off the coast of Mauritius. Two days later, scores of dead dolphins and whales started drifting dead onto the shores of Mauritius.

Concerns about Wakashio salvage operation

 

  •  This follows major demonstrations at the weekend in Mauritius and around its embassies around the world at the weekend, that attracted over 100,000 marchers (around 10% of the country) according to a report in the UK’s Independent newspaper. The protesters had marched peacefully on the streets of the capital, demanding justice and accountability for the environmental impact of the pollution, including the dead whales and dolphins.
  • This comes as international ocean NGO, Sea Shepherd revealed there was over 203,000 tons of ballast water on board the vessel when it hit the reefs of Mauritius (200 times the amount of oil leaked). Given concerns and international laws created in recent years to stop the harmful spread of marine disease through the release of ballast water, it is unclear whether this ballast water was safely removed from the vessel. Ship owner, Nagahsiki Shipping have not responded to media requests for comments.
  • At the same time, it is also being reported locally that the salvage team may have used seismic blasting in the sensitive areas around the Mauritian coast as part of the salvage operation. This is an area famed for its whale nursing sites, and several pregnant female Melon-headed whales and juveniles have already been found washed up in the past few days. If it is true that such seismic blasting had been undertaken, serious questions will need to be asked under whose authority such tests were conducted, and whether a thorough environmental impact assessment had been done of the area prior to the test, when there are dozens of luxury Five Star Hotels along Mauritius’ East Coast that offer tourists Dolphin and Whale Watching tours in the area.

 

International NGO criticism of global shipping

The international NGO community have also started to raise serious questions about the role of the global shipping industry in this incident. In a statement to Forbes, global ocean protection NGO, Ocean Conservancy has called for a full and independent investigation into the whale and dolphin deaths in Mauritius.

Chris Robbins, head of Science Initiatives at Ocean Conservancy and who worked for a decade on oil spill response and ecosystem restoration after the BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy highlighted the risk to dolphins in particular following a major oil spill.

“Marine mammals like dolphins were among the most severely impacted marine species affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster and recovery is estimated to take decades. Marine mammals are exposed to toxins in oil through inhalation, ingestion, aspiration and skin absorption, resulting in immediate death or sub-lethal effects such as lung disease, damage to the immune system and reproductive failure.

Right at the outset, Ocean Conservancy recognized that long-term monitoring is essential to tracking the recovery of impacted species such as marine mammal populations, as well as the broader marine ecosystem. Dolphins are long-lived and, as we saw in the northern Gulf of Mexico, the health effects of the spill could ripple throughout local dolphin populations for years to come.”

De-carbonizing the international shipping fleet

Ocean Conservancy has also gone on to call for bold shipping reform, echoing calls from other international environmental groups such as GreenpeaceWWF and Sea Shepherd for the same, citing the heavy engine fuel used as one of the main reasons this disaster was so extensive.

“In the ongoing uncertainty about science being used to assess the impact of the oil spill in Mauritius, one thing is crystal clear: we need to transition rapidly from fossil fuels to renewable energy. This includes, as a priority, de-carbonizing the international shipping fleet.

We estimate that full de-carbonization must occur by 2034 to remain within the 1.5 Celsius target set by the Paris Agreement. Accordingly, that will entail replacing all HFO (Heavy Fuel Oil) burning ships with cleaner green fuels like hydrogen or ammonia, which will also dramatically reduce the risk of a spill affecting marine mammals.

 Japan and the Japanese based Nagashiki Shipping, owners of the MV Wakashio, have a key role to play in all of this. As one of the largest shipbuilding nations along with China and the Republic of Korea, Japan can set the standards to prevent the next Wakashio, and publicly commit to accelerating the IMO’s international timeline for full decarbonization. This spill should be a wakeup call for all shipbuilding nations.”

This statement from Ocean Conservancy, echoes WWF’s call for justice for the ocean including calls to reform of the ‘flags of convenience’ regime, a system that many have argued for years has allowed ship owners to behave with impunity on the world’s oceans.  A range of legal and financial instruments have been highlighted by WWF for how a country like Mauritius can attempt to restore this unique ecosystem, based on other lessons from the Western Indian Ocean.

Warning about collateral damage from oil spill cleanup operations

Ocean Conservancy’s Chris Robbins went further and cautioned about many of the secondary effects of an oil spill clean up operation that he had learned from the BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy, that ended up causing even more harm.

He listed these in an article on the Ocean Conservancy site where he listed a five-point plan, for how Mauritius should think about its response to the Wakashio oil spill.

“There are some lessons from the Gulf of Mexico after the BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy that can be applied to the unfolding tragedy in Mauritius on how to respond to the spill from the standpoint of response, clean up, documenting damage, holding the responsible party accountable and building a long-term restoration plan.”

So far, there has been no additional comments from either the vessel owner, Nagashiki Shipping company, or the multi-billion dollar ship operator that had leased the vessel, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, on the deaths of the dolphins or whales.

Notably, there has also not been a public statement on the oil spill from several other major UN or other ocean protection organizations, 37 days into this major ecological crisis.


 

Mauritius oil slick spreads 10 km from where ship ran aground

By TAKASHI ISHIHARA/ Correspondent

August 15, 2020 at 14:34 JST

Play Video

A team of Japanese officials found oil that leaked from a Japanese cargo vessel washed up along a mangrove forest off the coast of Mauritius. (Video footage provided by Japan International Cooperation Agency)

JOHANNESBURG–A disastrous oil spill from a Japanese-owned cargo ship in the pristine waters of the scenic Mauritius coastline now stretches 10 kilometers north of where the vessel ran aground on July 25.

A team of Japanese officials dispatched to help clean up the fuel polluting world-renowned reefs held a news conference Aug. 14 to explain what they had found so far.

Six employees of the Foreign Ministry, the Japan Coast Guard and the Japan International Cooperation Agency departed Japan on Aug. 10 at the behest of the Mauritius government for help.

A videoconferencing system was used for the news conference.

The team said oil had been found as far north as 10 kilometers from the site where the ship owned by Okayama-based Nagashiki Shipping Co. ran aground in the Indian Ocean on July 25. Fuel oil began leaking from around Aug. 6.

“A major issue will be removing the oil and cleaning up the mangrove forests and shoreline,” said Junji Gomakubo, a Foreign Ministry official serving as team leader.

The team determined that almost all of the oil remaining on the ship had been recovered and the next step would be to remove the vessel, now in danger of breaking up, from the waters.

The team is trying to gauge the extent of the damage to determine what other measures need to be taken.

Team members are having to wear face masks and protective clothing, and are restricted in their movements, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Japanese team: Mauritius oil cleanup won’t be easy

Japanese experts assessing the impact of an oil spill caused by a Japanese ship off Mauritius say they have no idea how long it will take to clean up contaminated areas.

Specialists in maritime anti-pollution measures began working at sites where oil from a ship operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines washed ashore. The vessel ran aground off the Indian Ocean island nation on July 25.

The team reported its initial findings online on Friday, three days into the survey. One member said the contamination is widespread, with oil reaching some 10 kilometers north of the stranded ship.

He said the vessel suffered such severe damage that an attempt to retrieve it from shallow waters of only 10 meters deep would be challenging.

Another expert said mangrove swamps are inundated with oil, making it difficult to gain access and clean the entangled roots of the trees.

Anger as Japanese Prime Minister offers two cloth masks per family while refusing to declare coronavirus emergency

Tokyo (CNN)Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is facing a public backlash after he said the government would distribute two reusable cloth face masks per household amid growing concern over medical shortages as the country faces a worsening coronavirus outbreak.

The number of confirmed cases of the virus has spiked in recent weeks, after it appeared that Japan’s initial response had got the virus relatively under control. As of Wednesday, there were more than 2,300 cases across Japan, and 57 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.
That spike has seen a raft of new restrictions put in place in Tokyo and other major cities, and a run on protective gear, including face masks. On Wednesday, Abe said the provision of cloth masks to the worst hit areas “will be helpful in responding to the rapidly increasing demand.”
But Abe’s proposal to send two masks to each household attracted outrage and mockery online Wednesday, with the hashtag “Abe’s mask” and “screw your two masks” trending on Twitter.
Many felt the move was lackluster and would not go into effect fast enough to have a chance at curbing the spread of the virus, with masks not due to be distributed until the end of the month. Others dubbed the policy “Abenomask policy” as satirical memes showing well-known cartoon characters sharing one mask between four family members popped up online.
Experts call for more testing as coronavirus worsens

Experts call for more testing as coronavirus worsens 03:05
The anger comes as Abe resisted calls Wednesday to declare a state of emergency, saying that use of such powers was not imminent.
A declaration of a state of emergency would allow prefectural governors to send out a stronger message when it comes to urging the public to stay at home, but the measures will not be legally binding.
Last week, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike urged residents in the city of roughly 13.5 million to telework where possible and avoid bars, restaurants and public gatherings up until April 12. Tokyo has now extended the closure of schools and public facilities like zoos and museums up until May 6.
Koike on Tuesday called on Abe to issue the national emergency declaration, after the capital recorded 78 new cases, its highest single-day jump so far.

Explosive surge

Abe said the government would prioritize distributing masks to around 50 million households in areas where coronavirus infections have been spiking. The distribution will kick off later this month and each household with a registered postal address will receive the masks through the post, part of a wider coronavirus economic package that the government is rolling out.
Over the past week, Japan has scrambled to avert an explosive surge in infections. While the current tally stands at around 2,300 cases, Japan — a country of over 127 million people — has only tested just over 30,000, compared with 394,000 tests carried out in neighboring South Korea, which has a population of just over 51 million.
The apparently low infection rate has created what many experts fear is a false sense of security, with people still going out in public, some not wearing masks, to see cherry blossoms, a traditional spring pastime.
Pandemic takes toll on small sushi joints in Japan

Pandemic takes toll on small sushi joints in Japan 02:42
On Wednesday, medical experts warned that Japan’s healthcare system would not be able to bear the strain if coronavirus infections continued to spread.
A government panel warned that though Japan has not seen an explosive increase in infections so far, hospitals and medical clinics in Tokyo, Aichi, Kanagawa, Osaka and Hyogo were increasingly stretched and that “drastic countermeasures need to be taken as quickly as possible.”
Economic repercussions are also a concern. Earlier this week, Japan’s ruling party pledged to secure a 60 trillion yen ($556 billion) stimulus package to cushion an economy already hit by the postponement of the Olympics and coronavirus pandemic.

DIY masks amid shortages

While Abe’s cloth mask proposal was met with anger, Japan isn’t the only place mulling the use of improvised facial wear, amid widespread shortages in proper protective gear.
Mask use has been widespread in Asia since the beginning of the pandemic, but shortages and conflicting advice in many western countries has caused many people to go without, despite widespread evidence that masks help protect against the spread of the virus.
Cloth masks are not as effective as surgical masks or respirators, but they do offer limited protection and are easier to produce.
Across the US, people have been stepping up to create homemade masks for health care workers and other high risk populations amid widespread shortages and complaints from hospitals that they are not receiving supplies fast enough.
In March, US retailer JOANN Fabrics and Craft Stores released a video tutorial on how to make face masks. The retailer encouraged people to drop them off at store locations, where they will be donated to local hospitals.
But with a dwindling supply of N95 respirators and a surge in virus cases, healthcare facilities are bracing for the worst, and Japan may not be the last country to distribute cloth masks to its citizens.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is facing a public backlash after he said the government would distribute two reusable cloth face masks per household amid growing concern over medical shortages as the country faces a worsening coronavirus outbreak.

The number of confirmed cases of the virus has spiked in recent weeks, after it appeared that Japan’s initial response had got the virus relatively under control. As of Wednesday, there were more than 2,300 cases across Japan, and 57 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.
That spike has seen a raft of new restrictions put in place in Tokyo and other major cities, and a run on protective gear, including face masks. On Wednesday, Abe said the provision of cloth masks to the worst hit areas “will be helpful in responding to the rapidly increasing demand.”
But Abe’s proposal to send two masks to each household attracted outrage and mockery online Wednesday, with the hashtag “Abe’s mask” and “screw your two masks” trending on Twitter.
Many felt the move was lackluster and would not go into effect fast enough to have a chance at curbing the spread of the virus, with masks not due to be distributed until the end of the month. Others dubbed the policy “Abenomask policy” as satirical memes showing well-known cartoon characters sharing one mask between four family members popped up online.
Experts call for more testing as coronavirus worsens

Experts call for more testing as coronavirus worsens 03:05
The anger comes as Abe resisted calls Wednesday to declare a state of emergency, saying that use of such powers was not imminent.
A declaration of a state of emergency would allow prefectural governors to send out a stronger message when it comes to urging the public to stay at home, but the measures will not be legally binding.
Last week, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike urged residents in the city of roughly 13.5 million to telework where possible and avoid bars, restaurants and public gatherings up until April 12. Tokyo has now extended the closure of schools and public facilities like zoos and museums up until May 6.
Koike on Tuesday called on Abe to issue the national emergency declaration, after the capital recorded 78 new cases, its highest single-day jump so far.

Explosive surge

Abe said the government would prioritize distributing masks to around 50 million households in areas where coronavirus infections have been spiking. The distribution will kick off later this month and each household with a registered postal address will receive the masks through the post, part of a wider coronavirus economic package that the government is rolling out.
Over the past week, Japan has scrambled to avert an explosive surge in infections. While the current tally stands at around 2,300 cases, Japan — a country of over 127 million people — has only tested just over 30,000, compared with 394,000 tests carried out in neighboring South Korea, which has a population of just over 51 million.
The apparently low infection rate has created what many experts fear is a false sense of security, with people still going out in public, some not wearing masks, to see cherry blossoms, a traditional spring pastime.
Pandemic takes toll on small sushi joints in Japan

Pandemic takes toll on small sushi joints in Japan 02:42
On Wednesday, medical experts warned that Japan’s healthcare system would not be able to bear the strain if coronavirus infections continued to spread.
A government panel warned that though Japan has not seen an explosive increase in infections so far, hospitals and medical clinics in Tokyo, Aichi, Kanagawa, Osaka and Hyogo were increasingly stretched and that “drastic countermeasures need to be taken as quickly as possible.”
Economic repercussions are also a concern. Earlier this week, Japan’s ruling party pledged to secure a 60 trillion yen ($556 billion) stimulus package to cushion an economy already hit by the postponement of the Olympics and coronavirus pandemic.

DIY masks amid shortages

While Abe’s cloth mask proposal was met with anger, Japan isn’t the only place mulling the use of improvised facial wear, amid widespread shortages in proper protective gear.
Mask use has been widespread in Asia since the beginning of the pandemic, but shortages and conflicting advice in many western countries has caused many people to go without, despite widespread evidence that masks help protect against the spread of the virus.
Cloth masks are not as effective as surgical masks or respirators, but they do offer limited protection and are easier to produce.
Across the US, people have been stepping up to create homemade masks for health care workers and other high risk populations amid widespread shortages and complaints from hospitals that they are not receiving supplies fast enough.
In March, US retailer JOANN Fabrics and Craft Stores released a video tutorial on how to make face masks. The retailer encouraged people to drop them off at store locations, where they will be donated to local hospitals.
But with a dwindling supply of N95 respirators and a surge in virus cases, healthcare facilities are bracing for the worst, and Japan may not be the last country to distribute cloth masks to its citizens.

Three Japanese evacuees from Wuhan test positive for virus, two had no symptoms

TOKYO (Reuters) – Two of three Japanese people evacuated from China and found to be infected with a new coronavirus had not shown symptoms, the health ministry said on Thursday, adding to worries about the fast-spreading virus and its economic fallout.

The three cases were among 206 Japanese people who were evacuated to Tokyo on Wednesday from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic that has killed 170 people in China and infected nearly 8,000.

While the vast majority of cases have been in China, more than 100 cases have also appeared in about 15 other countries. Later on Thursday, a Chinese man in his 50s, who had previously stayed in Wuhan, was found be infected in the western prefecture of Mie, Kyodo news agency reported.

A Chinese woman in her 20s, who had previously stayed in Wuhan and was studying in Kyoto, was also found to be infected, broadcaster NHK said.

 

That brought the total number of cases in Japan to 13 including the three evacuees.

The two people who were confirmed as infected but had not shown symptoms were the first such cases in Japan, though suspicion has been rising elsewhere that people who have the virus but no symptoms can infect others.

That would make the virus much more difficult to control.

Japan on Tuesday classified the virus a “designated infectious disease”, which would allow compulsory hospitalization and the use of public funds for treatment.

Officials wearing masks wait for the arrival of Japanese nationals evacuated from Wuhan, at the National Center for Global Health and Medicine in Tokyo, Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo January 30, 2020. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

But the designation – which takes effect on Feb. 7 after ordinances are issued – does not apply to people without symptoms.

Asked about concern over transmission of the virus from people who have not shown symptoms, a health ministry official said it was not clear whether that had happened.

Shigeru Omi, head of the Japan Community Health Care Organization, told a briefing that there were reports of such transmissions in China.

Chinese National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei said this week the virus was infectious during incubation, which can range from one to 14 days.

A second charter flight carrying 210 Japanese nationals arrived in Tokyo on Thursday. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said 13 of them felt unwell.

IMPACT WORSE THAN SARS?

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, inaugurating a task force to deal with the virus, said the government would take all steps to prevent its spread, including tracking and checking people who had been in Wuhan.

Among Japan’s cases was a tour bus driver who was infected after coming into contact with Chinese visitors.

Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Masayoshi Amamiya speaking to investors, said the impact of the virus would depended on its spread but China’s global presence was greater than when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which also originated in China, killed nearly 800 people globally in 2002 and 2003.

ANA Holdings, Japan’s biggest carrier, said its bookings for flights from China in February fell by half, while those for flights to China plunged 60%.

Slideshow (7 Images)

“The concern is of the impact that the situation could have on China’s economy and the knock on that will have on things like air cargo,” ANA Executive Vice President Ichiro Fukuzawa told a news conference after the release of quarterly earnings.

Moody’s rating service said the economic risk to China’s neighbors was likely to be greater than from SARS.

Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, Ami Miyazaki and Kiyoshi Takenaka, Ju-min Park, Naomi Tajitsu, Tim Kelly, Tetsushi Kajimoto, Elaine Lies and David Dolan; Writing by Linda Sieg; Editing by Sam Holmes, Robert Birsel and Alex Richardson

The climate chain reaction that threatens the heart of the Pacific

SHIRETOKO PENINSULA, Japan — Lined up along the side of their boat, the fishermen hauled a huge, heavy net up from swelling waves. At first, a few small jellyfish emerged, then a piece of plastic. Then net, and more net. Finally, all the way at the bottom: a small thrashing mass of silvery salmon.

It was just after dawn at the height of the autumn fishing season, but something was wrong.

“When are the fish coming?” boat captain Teruhiko Miura asked himself.

Teruhiko Miura, 53, captain of the Hokushin Maru, at a port in the town of Shari in Hokkaido, Japan.

The salmon catch is collapsing off Japan’s northern coast, plummeting by about 70 percent in the past 15 years. The disappearance of the fish coincides with another striking development: the loss of a unique blanket of sea ice that dips far below the Arctic to reach this shore.

Click any temperature underlined in the story to convert between Celsius and Fahrenheit

The twin impacts — less ice, fewer salmon — are the products of rapid warming in the Sea of Okhotsk, wedged between Siberia and Japan. The area has warmed in some places by as much as 3 degrees Celsius since preindustrial times, making it one of the fastest-warming spots in the world, according to a Washington Post analysis of data from the nonprofit organization Berkeley Earth.

Five-year average of temperature change compared with late 1800s

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HOKKAIDOHOKKAIDOOymyakonOymyakon(Cold Pole)(Cold Pole)Sea of OkhotskSea of Okhotsk
Source: Berkeley Earth

That increase far outstrips the global average and exceeds the limit policymakers set in Paris in 2015 when they aimed to keep Earth’s average temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius.

The rising temperatures are starting to shut down the single most dynamic sea ice factory on Earth. The intensity of ice generation in the northwestern Sea of Okhotsk exceeds that of any single place in the Arctic Ocean or Antarctica, and the sea ice reaches a lower latitude than anywhere else on the planet. Its decline has a cascade of consequences well beyond Japan as climate dominoes begin to fall.

When sea ice forms here, it expels huge amounts of salt into the frigid water below the surface, creating some of the densest ocean water on Earth. That water then sinks and travels east, carrying oxygen, iron and other key nutrients out into the northern Pacific Ocean, where marine life depends on it.

As the ice retreats, that nutrient-rich current is weakening, endangering the biological health of the vast northern Pacific — one of the most startling, and least discussed, effects of climate change so far observed.

“We call the Sea of Okhotsk the heart of the North Pacific,” said Kay Ohshima, a polar oceanographer at the Institute of Low Temperature Science at Hokkaido University. “But the Sea of Okhotsk is significantly warming, three times faster than the global mean.

“That causes the power of the heart to weaken,” he said.

The Sea of Okhotsk and Japan, seen from a highway on Russia’s Kunashir Island in March. (Elena Anosova/For The Washington Post)

Cascade of climate change

The cascade starts more than a thousand miles away in a uniquely frigid area of Siberia known as the “Cold Pole,” where the coldest temperature ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere (-67.7 degrees Celsius) was measured in 1933.

The Cold Pole, too, is warming rapidly, by about 2.7 degrees Celsius since preindustrial times in the village of Oymyakon. That means the bitter north wind that blows down onto the Sea of Okhotsk is also warming.

The warmer wind inhibits the formation of sea ice. Across the Sea of Okhotsk, ice cover during the peak months of February and March has shrunk by nearly 30 percent in the past four decades, a vanishing of about 130,000 square miles of ice, an area larger than Arizona.

A region within the Sea of Okhotsk has experienced warming nearly three times the global average
18801900195019802018-20244ºF above 1880-1899average-10123ºC above 1880-1899average1.2ºC3.0ºCAnnual average for the regionFive-year rolling average
Source: Berkeley Earth

Masanori Ito, 67, recalls how, during his childhood, the ice would drift down from the sea’s northern reaches — a thick, white carpet descending on Abashiri, a city on the northeastern shore of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture.

“The drift ice used to arrive with a force, pushed and pushed from behind, from far out at sea,” said Ito, senior executive director at the Okhotsk Sightseeing Federation. It would pile up upon itself, forming “mountains over 10 meters high.”

Today, those mountains are long gone, and the coast of Hokkaido is hemmed in by ice for fewer than 25 days a year on average, said Arctic scientist Shuhei Takahashi, who runs the Okhotsk Sea Ice Museum of Hokkaido in Mombetsu.

A century ago, the coast typically had ice for more than 50 days each winter, Takahashi said. Based on current trends, he said, the drift ice could disappear entirely by the end of this century.

Children play what was called “Drift Ice Riding Play” or “Ryu-hyo Nori Asobi” at the Abashiri Port in the mid-1950s. (Courtesy of Keiichi Kikuchi)

Meanwhile, the ice itself is also changing. Those who know it well say it sounds different, less intense, no longer an indomitable winter colossus.

“Years ago, our nose hair froze and stuck out. And our eyelashes would get moist and go all white,” said Shigeru Yamai, 66, captain of the icebreaker Garinko II. “When we walked on the ice, we heard squeaking sounds. The sound today is different. It hardly gets that severe anymore.”

Salmon culture in peril

For fisherman Nobuo Sugimura, 63, the changing climate is evident in his steadily diminishing catch. At home after a fishing trip on Miura’s vessel the Hokushin Maru, Sugimura brought out his logbooks and diaries, pulling records for his most recent catch in late September and for the same period seven years ago.

In 2012, Sugimura’s records show he and fellow crew members brought in between 21 and 52 metric tons of fish per day. This year, the catch one day was a meager six tons.

“We had a bad time 30 or 40 years ago, and this reminds me of that,” he said. “But that only lasted a year or two, not this long.”

Fishermen on the Hokushin Maru haul salmon from the Sea of Okhotsk near the town of Utoro in Hokkaido, Japan.

Fisherman Nobuo Sugimura, 63, takes a break as the crew of the Hokushin Maru heads back to shore.

The crew of the Hokushin Maru ices its catch near Utoro.

In the nation that invented sushi, there is no region better known for its seafood than Hokkaido. And there is no fish more synonymous with Hokkaido, more central to its culture, than the salmon.

The relationship stretches back as long as humans have lived here. The indigenous Ainu people had 133 words for salmon and used its skin to make boots. The fish and its orange roe are critical ingredients in Hokkaido’s famous seafood sashimi rice bowl, savored by foodie tourists across this gourmet nation. The image of a bear clamping a salmon between its powerful jaws is an iconic symbol of Hokkaido, reproduced on T-shirts and in wood carvings on sale in almost every souvenir shop.

Though Hokkaido’s salmon hatcheries are working harder than ever, releasing a billion juvenile fish into the island’s rivers every spring, the number of returning chum salmon has declined sharply, from 68 million fish in 2003 to just 28 million in 2018. Nationwide, Japan’s annual chum salmon catch has also fallen from 258,000 metric tons in 2003, when a sharp decline began, to 80,000 last year, according to the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission.

Salmon are highly sensitive to changes in water temperature. As they swim into the Sea of Okhotsk at the start of their long migration across the Pacific, the warmer waters act as a force field, pushing them off their ancient track.

Compelled to travel faster and farther to reach cooler northern waters, the young salmon use up stores of energy when they can least afford it. If they delay their departure date, they won’t survive at all.

The crew of the Hokushin Maru unloads its haul in Utoro.

Masahide Kaeriyama, an emeritus professor in the Arctic Research Center at Hokkaido University, said Japanese salmon migrate up what he calls a “ladder” of suitable temperatures. For more than a decade, he has been predicting that climate change would cut Hokkaido’s salmon catch in half. Now, he says global warming is happening even faster than he expected.

“As the optimal temperature moves away from Hokkaido, the ladder of migration is being taken away,” he said.

Japan’s loss has been Russia’s gain. Waters near the Siberian coast — once too cold for salmon — are now in the optimum range for the fish. Even as Japan’s catch began to decline in 2003, Russia’s chum salmon quadrupled to a record high of nearly 144,000 metric tons in 2015. The same phenomenon is happening around the world, as warmer waters cause key species to seek cooler habitats closer to the poles. The lobster population off the Northeast coast in the United States is seeing a similar disruption.

If the Hokkaido salmon survive the first leg of their journey, they move into the Bering Sea, and then on to the Gulf of Alaska for their second winter. By the age of 4 or 5, they return to Japan, to the very same river where they hatched.

The smaller number of returning fish is keenly felt on Hokkaido’s Shiretoko Peninsula, home to the largest concentration of brown bears in the world. Each fall, as the salmon amass offshore, the bears are waiting, splashing in the streams at the mouth of every river. Here, the iconic image of a bear catching a salmon comes to life.

People fish by the Onnebetsu River and the Sea of Okhotsk in late September.

An Ussuri brown bear snaps up a salmon with her cub on the shore near Rausu, Japan, in Hokkaido.

Sika deer wander near the Rusha River in Shiretoko National Park, Hokkaido.

Salmon nourish the bears, and the bears’ leftovers discarded in the forest nourish birds, insects and plants, creating “one of the richest integrated ecosystems in the world,” according to UNESCO, the educational, scientific and cultural agency of the United Nations.

UNESCO made Shiretoko National Park a World Heritage Site in 2005. But as the drift ice recedes and the salmon catch shrinks, UNESCO worries that the park’s unique ecosystem will be irrevocably damaged.

“Japanese people see salmon as a source of food,” Kaeriyama said. “But salmon is, in fact, the very foundation of the ecosystem where we live.”

An Ussuri brown bear near Rusha River in Shiretoko National Park in Hokkaido.

The heart of the Pacific

The link between sea ice and prosperity is not lost on the towns and cities of northern Hokkaido and the Shiretoko Peninsula, where the ice drives a vital tourism industry.

In the spring, as the ice melts and sunlight hits the water, the sea blooms with phytoplankton, the anchor of marine life and the base of the ocean’s food web.

That makes the Sea of Okhotsk a spectacularly bountiful stretch of water, home to whales and dolphins, sea lions and seals, scallop and crabs, and hundreds of species of fish. Its shores provide homes to many migratory and sea birds, from the largest owl in the world — the endangered Blakiston’s fish owl — to the heavy Steller’s sea eagle.

In Abashiri alone, about 110,000 people, nearly half of them foreigners, took sightseeing cruises last year across the vast expanse of sea ice. On the eastern side of the peninsula, tourist boats set out from the town of Rausu every winter to gaze at eagles perched on the ice and seals bobbing through it, and in the spring, summer and fall to watch humpback, sperm and killer whales splash through the waves.

Tourists descend to visit an ice exhibit at the Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum in the city of Abashiri in Hokkaido.

Tourists make their way through an ice exhibit at the Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum in Abashiri.

Sea creatures are preserved at the Okhotsk Sea Ice Museum of Hokkaido in Mombetsu, Japan.

Meanwhile, key nutrients, especially iron, flow into the Sea of Okhotsk from Russia’s Amur River. Undersea currents carry those nutrients into the North Pacific, forming an intermediate layer of water roughly 600 to 2,600 feet below the surface. Eventually, the water rises back up, bringing the iron that is vital for phytoplankton with it.

The Okhotsk sea ice decline jeopardizes that giant convection current. Ohshima, his fellow scientists from Hokkaido University and other institutions in Japan have documented a marked warming in the North Pacific’s intermediate layer, much more rapid than the general warming of the ocean — a sign that less cold, dense water is being formed in the Sea of Okhotsk.

Scientists have also documented growing zones in the North Pacific, at depths of about 1,300 and 2,300 feet, where ocean oxygen levels are in fast decline.

In other words, the “heart of the Pacific” is indeed weakening. The scientists don’t know all of the consequences yet, but they’re worried because of the irreplaceable contribution of the Sea of Okhotsk to a much larger region.

‘Until you feel it on your skin’

Back on Hokkaido, the falling salmon catch is triggering cascading economic impacts.

Last year, salmon processors paid high prices for dwindling supplies of Japanese chum salmon, only to find that consumers weren’t prepared to pay more. Japanese salmon was soon displaced by cheaper imports from places such as Norway, Chile, Russia and Alaska.

Tetsuya Shinya, head of the Abashiri Fisheries Cooperative, said he is reluctantly considering something once unthinkable: raising salmon on fish farms.

“It’s still not the right time to do it,” he said. “Even so, I feel we are getting into a pretty tough time.”

Fishermen unload salmon in September at a port in Utoro, Japan, on the Shiretoko Peninsula.

Buyers gather at a salmon auction Sept. 30 at the Abashiri Fisheries Cooperative in Hokkaido.

Tetsuya Shinya, the head of the Abashiri Fisheries Cooperative, in Hokkaido.

Wild salmon tend to be hardier and more resistant to changing temperatures than salmon reared in the more-controlled environment of a hatchery. One solution is a campaign to reduce Hokkaido’s dependence on salmon hatcheries by encouraging more wild salmon to return to the island’s rivers.

Scientists and volunteers are clearing rivers along the Shiretoko Peninsula, where anything from silt to concrete dams can prevent wild salmon from returning to spawn.

Among the volunteers is Yuto Sugimura, 32, the son of the fisherman whose records document the salmon’s startling decline.

Yuto said he never used to think much about climate change beyond what he saw on the news. But as he dove into the sea in September to set salmon nets, he didn’t need any records to tell him the temperature is rising.

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“I’ve been going under the water for 15 years, but these days it feels quite lukewarm,” he said.

“Until you feel it on your skin or experience it in reality, you don’t talk about it,” Yuto said of climate change.

“Today, with the changes in the water, I am beginning to feel it on my skin, and I am beginning to think about it.”

Kunashir Island across the sea from the Japanese town of Rausu in Hokkaido. The island is controlled by Russia but claimed by Japan.

Akiko Kashiwagi contributed to this story.