The Government of Japan handed over two cooler prototypes to JR-5 Central Market in Koror, which are specially designed to keep fish fresh, as part of its campaign to help Palau develop its local fisheries.
The design, invented specifically for Palau by a Japanese manufacturing company TASTE Co. Ltd., preserves ice four times as long as an ordinary cooler, and is meant to help manage problems of fish spoiling before they are purchased and eaten. Mr. Miura Kosuke, the Project leader for TASTE, said that the two coolers will be tested by JR-5, and if they prove to be effective it could lead to the production of more.
The cooler prototype, which Mr. Kosuke said took a year to develop, is made to have enhanced weather resistance. Its lid is blue and yellow to resemble the colors of the Palauan flag.
Mr. Salvador Remoket, President of JR-5, said that the prototypes are also designed to address the problem of rotten smells in coolers. Mr. Remoket said that some of the coolers he has now have cracks in the side, and the blood of fish gets stuck in the cracks and dries. The next day, the odor of the dried blood mixes with the smell of the ice.
“Sometimes our fish smells like it’s too old, but it was actually brought in this morning,” Mr. Remoket said.
He added that JR-5 will be conducting “controlled data collection” by comparing the new coolers to coolers which the market already owns, in order to test how effective the prototypes are in maintaining freshness and getting rid of bad smells.
Ambassador of Japan Akira Karasawa said that he hopes the new cooler design will contribute to expansion of sales and increase of income for fishermen in Palau.
The Ambassador explained the “cold food chain” in Japan, a long process between catching the fish in the ocean and delivering them to the table.
“We are very sensitive to the quality of the fish; otherwise we cannot taste it as sashimi,” the Ambassador said, explaining that fish in Japan must be kept fresh throughout the process of catching the fish on boats, transporting them to local markets, selling them in auctions and transporting them to big cities like Tokyo, having another auction and selling them in supermarkets, and finally eating them at a family table.
Umiich Sengebau, former Minister of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism (MNRET), added that preserving ice four times as long will help fishermen save money on ice.
Mr. Sengebau said that this handover is part of an ongoing cooperation between Palau and Japan to develop a sustainable fish market in Palau, particularly one capable of supplying pelagics, citing planned trainings for fishermen in pelagic fishing techniques and preservation of fish, which are postponed due to COVID travel restrictions.
MNRET has previously taken delegations of Palauan fishermen to Japan to observe firsthand how big operations capable of catching pelagic fish are managed. Japan is also providing a pole-and-line fishing vessel to Palau, which will be available this year.
Developing sustainable fisheries in Palau is a top priority for newly-inaugurated President Surangel Whipps. With the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) expected to replenish the fish stocks in Palau’s waters, but Palau’s capacity to profit from this massively underdeveloped, President Whipps has said that the next step is to build a sustainable way in which pelagics can be harvested by local fishermen.