Pacific saury, or sanma in Japanese, is a species of fish that migrates vast distances north and south seasonally. In the waters off Japan the fish migrates northward from spring to summer and in autumn it heads south towards Kyushu. The waters off Hokkaido’s east coast are a major fishing ground for Pacific saury, and since warm and cold currents intersect here, it has a wealth of animal plankton that serve as a food source. Pacific saury that grow fat off this plankton found in this fertile fishing ground are caught in large numbers during the autumn. Currently, Pacific saury represents the third largest catch of any of Hokkaido’s seafoods, behind only scallops and Alaska pollock.
Generally, Pacific saury is grilled after being seasoned with salt, but when freshly caught it can also be enjoyed as sushi or sashimi. Pacific saury is known as one of the tastes of autumn. It contains a wealth of nutrients, has large IPA and DHA content as well as contains taurine and vitamin D.
The Pacific Coast along Hokkaido’s eastern reaches accounts for some 80% of the prefecture’s entire Pacific saury catch. In particular, Hanasaki Port in Nemuro City boasts the largest catch in all of Japan.
■Map / Main municipalities with fishing grounds
Nemuro City, Kushiro City, Akkeshi Town, Hamanaka Town, Hakodate City (Minami Kayabe)
Fisheries cooperatives in the Nemuro and Kushiro regions have established their own stringent standards to ensure that only the freshest and highest quality Pacific saury is delivered. The standards include the size and shape of the fish, degree of freshness, as well as traceability, because these organizations are focusing efforts on ensuring consumers can eat their fish with peace of mind.
The Pacific saury fishing season opens from the end of summer and reaches its peak in September and October.