TOKYO (WASHINGTON POST) - In response to North Korea's missile launches and the issue of disputed islands, a growing number of fishermen are taking out special insurance contracts that cover such damage as loss of life among crew members if they are involved in armed conflicts and attacks.
These contracts are called special contracts for war and other emergencies. A significantly large number have been taken out among fishermen in Okinawa Prefecture, including the Senkaku Islands, which are controlled by Tokyo but are also claimed by China, which refers to them as the Diaoyu Islands.
Since North Korea repeatedly fired missiles from June, owners of about 60 squid and other fishing boats in at least six prefectures, including Ishikawa, Hokkaido and Yamagata, most of which face the Sea of Japan/East Sea have newly concluded the special insurance contracts.
According to Nihon Gyosen Hoken Kumiai, a Tokyo-based national insurance association for fishing boats, insurance products were previously sold with similar special contracts for damage from armed conflicts and other emergencies. But the old ones covered only the bodies of fishing boats. This kind of special insurance was abolished at the end of March.
A new special insurance scheme was launched on April 1. The current special insurance contracts cover not only damage to the bodies of vessels but also loss of life among crew members - up to 12 million yen (S$144,912) per person - and damage to cargo transported by fishing boats.
Premium payments for the special insurance contracts come to about 80,000 yen a year when covering the bodies of fishing boats that are currently worth 100 million yen each.
As of the end of fiscal 2016, about 250 fishing boats were covered by such special insurance contracts across the nation.
At the end of July, 742 fishing boats nationwide were covered by the new insurance products with special contracts for war and other emergencies. Of this number, 689 boats were based in Okinawa Prefecture, where the Senkaku Islands/Diaoyu Islands.
Since June, the number of fishing boats based in areas facing the Sea of Japan/East Sea that are covered by the new special insurance contracts also rapidly increased.
Among squid boats that go to an area called Yamatotai about 300km off the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, the owners of 17 boats based in the prefecture concluded the special contracts in June.
Six fishing boats based in Hakodate, Hokkaido, 26 boats based in Aomori Prefecture and two boats based in Yamagata Prefecture had joined the special contract scheme by the end of August.
Also, owners of three fishing boats based in Tottori Prefecture and one fishing boat in Shimane Prefecture that catch snow crabs in the fishing area north of Yamatotai also concluded the special contracts.
There was an incident near Yamatotai in July in which a gun was pointed at a patrol vessel of the Fisheries Agency from what was deemed to be a North Korean-registered vessel.
An official of Hachinohe Minato Gyokyo, a fisheries cooperative in Aomori Prefecture, said: "All squid-fishing boats going to the Yamatotai area have concluded the special contracts."
This summer, patrol vessels of the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) took such actions as giving warnings using loudspeakers and air whistles, and fired water cannons at illegal fishing boats believed to be North Korean-registered vessels, to drive them out of Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The JCG drove away a total of about 820 boats from the nation's EEZ through these actions.
A 62-year-old fisherman of the Ogi district in Noto, Ishikawa Prefecture, said: "Just joining the insurance scheme doesn't mean we can fish safely. We hope the government will respond strictly to North Korea's missile launches and illegal fishing in the Yamatotai area."