Japanese fisherman OBI photoFamily fishermen in Japan took delivery of a very special donation, on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that wiped out their local fishing industry. An American humanitarian group donated ten new hand-crafted boats to shrimp and seaweed fishermen in Hikado Harbor who have been out of work since the disaster.

Because the Japanese boat-building industry was also destroyed, the latest delivery by Operation Blessing International to fishing families in the Miyagi Prefecture will restore livelihoods and hope to many who might otherwise remain on waiting lists for new boats to be built.

“There is currently an extended waiting time for new boats to be built – as long as a year, even longer, because Japanese boat builders are simply overwhelmed,” said OBI president Bill Horan.

When the 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck, Japan’s fishing industry was nearly decimated as thousands of boats and large seaweed and shellfish cultivation operations were destroyed.

As part of the Virginia Beach-based Christian organization’s ongoing efforts to help these fishing communities, OBI commissioned 20 boats to be built by General Marine of Biddeford, Maine. The first 10 boats were funded by the international software company, SAP, through their Solidarity Fund, set up for earthquake relief.

Last September, OBI scoured Japan to find more than 50 used boats and motors and delivered them to fishermen who had families to feed.

Since those boat donations were “a drop in the ocean of need‟ due to thousands of fishermen who’d lost theirs, OBI commissioned General Marine to build the 20 new boats, which are based on a design developed in consultation with the local fishermen.

Determined to help cultivators along the coast get back to work and see the return of income, OBI placed an order with a Chinese manufacturer to produce a special rope used by seaweed cultivators that is currently hard to find in Japan because of huge demand since the disaster.

boats in Japan OBI photoIn another project, OBI provided laptop computers to the JF Miyagi Fisheries Cooperative, for the fishermen to reach out to the nation via their own Web page. Since the project‟s launch, the cooperative has received pre-orders worth several million dollars for seafood to be delivered when the industry is revitalized.

OBI also provided $650,000 worth of seaweed and oyster cultivation equipment to the Urato Islands, which are famous for oysters. They received anchors, rope, scallop shells used for cultivating oysters, floats, nets, small trucks, and computers.  In addition, the charity delivered industrial grade generators and refrigerators to the isolated islands lying off the coast of Miyagi. Due to OBI’s swift action, the oystermen were able to harvest in the same year as the tsunami, a timeline that was unthinkable by most in the community. In recognition of this achievement, the Mayor of Shiogama City honored OBI for getting them back on their feet so quickly.

In the coming months, OBI hopes to continue its boat donation program and has found a manufacturer in China to produce a 23-foot fishing boat similar to a model favored by local Japanese fishermen.

Japan fishermen - OBI photo“We will be launching a new sponsorship program where community groups, churches and other organizations across Japan and elsewhere will be able to donate to the cost of building new boats for fishing families.”

In the months following the earthquake, Operation Blessing also conducted eyeglass clinics along the coast of Miyagi and Iwate Prefecture providing free eye exams and prescription glasses to almost 2,000 survivors living in shelters and temporary housing who lost their glasses in the tsunami.

DONATE to this fantastic effort at: www.ob.org

WATCH a video about OBI helping Japan’s fishing industry below…

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