Shigeatsu Hatakeyama’s oyster farm was completely destroyed by the deadly tsunami that hit north-east Japan in March 2011.
“I thought to myself my business was over,” says 74-year-old Hatakeyama, who is known as ‘Grandpa Oyster,’ a nickname given by the schoolchildren in his environmental education programme.
To his surprise, however, the conditions conducive to oyster farming in Kesennuma Bay came back quickly. He believes the recovery can be attributed to the tree-planting movement he and his fishing community initiated decades ago in the upstream of Okawa River that flows into the Bay.
Mr. Hatakeyama is the president of the non-profit organization “Mori wa Umi no Koibito” (The forest is longing for the sea, the sea is longing for the forest), whose activities focus on reforestation and environmental education. He was also one of the recipients of the UN Forest Hero Award in 2012.
Ahead of the United Nations Ocean Conference, Mr. Hatakeyama spoke with UN News and explained how the forest environment is interlinked to marine production.
UN News: What led you to start the reforestation movement “The forest is longing for the sea, the sea is longing for the forest?”
Shigeatsu Hatakeyama: The movement started in 1989. Oysters grow in areas of brackish waters where a river meets the sea. You cannot grow oysters just with salt water. Fresh water is necessary. For instance, Hiroshima, a well-known oyster production site, has brackish water areas at the mouth of the Ota River. Okawa flows into Kesennuma Bay, where our oyster farm is situated. Nutrients from upstream forests that a river carries raise phytoplankton, which oysters feed on.