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Oyster farmers rebuild livelihoods in tsunami-devastated Japanese town

Kimimasa Mayama / EPA

Masashi Shirano, right, chief of aqua farming at the Fishery Cooperative Association of Yamada, talks with a colleague in a warehouse in Yamada, Iwate Prefecture, northern Japan, on Feb. 15, 2012.

Kimimasa Mayama / EPA

Masashi Shirano, center, and his son Takashi, right, speed to another farming raft as they harvest oysters off Yamada.

Kimimasa Mayama / EPA

Rafts for oyster farming dotted around Yamada Bay.

770 residents of the Japanese port of Yamada died or remain missing as a result of the tsunami just under a year ago, the European Pressphoto Agency reports. The main industry in the town, aquafarming, was devastated, with many farmers losing their boats, farming rafts and fishery workshops as well as their homes.

But all hope is not lost. The remaining oyster farmers decided to work together, pool resources and rebuild their business as a cooperative. They were fortunate that some young oysters had survived the tsunami, which meant they could produce their first harvest in November, eight months after the disaster. 

Kimimasa Mayama / EPA

52-year-old Masahi Shirano, head of the cooperative, says he would have given up the trade if it wasn't for his son, Takashi, who works alongside him. The pair start their working day three hours before sunrise with the arduous task of shelling oysters harvested the previous day. Others are at work building new farming rafts. 

Masahi says he considers himself lucky. "If my son gave up, I would give up the fishery business," he says.

Kimimasa Mayama / EPA

Oysters are shelled.

Kimimasa Mayama / EPA

Aqua farmers warm themselves by a fire during a break as they shell oysters.