Hokkaido and Marine Animals

About 3 weeks ago, I went to Usujiri Marine Biological Research Station, helping my friend for sampling sea urchin. Usujiri Marine Biological Research Station is research station of Faculty of Fisheries, Hokkaido University. The station is located in the southern part of Hokkaido. It takes around 1 hour to reach the station from Faculty of Fisheries Hokkaido University in Hakodate by using car.

I’m not so familiar with coastal area before, so it’s very interesting for me, especially when we were looking for sea urchin. Sea urchin is called as uni in Japan. When you saw sea urchin, maybe you are curious about how sea urchin moves. Sea urchin can move freely by using adhesive tube feet in under the body. Gonad of sea urchin is eatable and has been widely processed into delicious food around the world. In Japan, sea urchin is served raw as sushi and also sashimi. I heard that sea urchin from Hokkaido is popular as high class ingredient for sushi. ‘Ezo-Bafun-Uni’ and ‘Kita-Murasaki-Uni are popular sea urchins that come from Hokkaido.

Fig 1.Not only found sea urchin, we also found many star fishes (picture from Li-san)

During my stay in Hakodate, I get opportunity to see (directly) and eat many kind of marine animals that I never seen before, such as sea urchin, sturgeon, sea cucumber, rockfish, star fish,  zebrafish and etc. Not only can see them directly, I also gain some interesting information about them (thank you for sensei and also my friends that gave me interesting information about that animals). The most interesting one is sturgeon. Sturgeon is common name of fish that come from family Acipenseridae. Sturgeon can live very long time and also the length of the body can reach more than 5 m (depend on species). Some species of sturgeon have ability to produce egg that is called caviar, a luxurious food. Believe me, caviar from sturgeon is expensive. The price may differ among sturgeon caviar, depend on the quality. But I heard that the price of the most expensive sturgeon caviar on the record is about 35.000 US Dollar per kg. Can you imagine? Therefore, sturgeon that able to produce caviar is referred as one of the most valuable wildlife resources. For your information, I don’t know before about caviar from sturgeon and also the price that can be so expensive. Before this, I only know about caviar from salmon. But some people said that salmon’s egg is not caviar.

Fig2. I and sturgeon picture

Another interesting marine animal is sea cucumber. Like star fish and sea urchin, sea cucumber also belongs to echinoderm. It has very soft and cylindrical body. We call it teripang in Indonesia. Sea cucumber is not only utilized as food, but also widely used in pharmaceutical. It has been utilized as folk medicine in Asia and believed as medicine for several illnesses. Sea cucumber has all necessary fatty acids which are important for tissue repairing. Therefore, sea cucumber can regenerate and heal the body parts very quickly.

One of my friends is doing research by using zebra fish, small fish with blue stripes on the side of the body. Zebra fish (Danio rerio) was the first vertebrate that can be cloned and also popular with its regenerative abilities. Not only that, zebra fish also had been modified into several transgenic strains. Zebra fish has been widely used as model in scientific research about vertebrate development and gene function. And nowadays, zebra fish is popularly used in medical research such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, immune system, and also infectious disease. Moreover, by using zebra fish as model, researcher not only can identify gene that is responsible for a disease but also can develop therapeutic agent or drug for a disease. Sugoi ne!

Fig 3.Zebra fish

Hokkaido is popular in fishery industries, so I get opportunity to see many kinds of fishery product. Every year, Hokkaido produces high quantity of marine products. Based on data in 2008, salmon, scallop, and seaweed are the top three marine products from Hokkaido, in the term of production value. Seaweeds become important materials in Japanese food. Aonori, Aosa, Umi-Budou, Mozuku, Wakame, Konbu,Hijiki, Matsumo, Nori are several kinds of seaweed in Japan. Some of them are expensive and can be found only in fancy restaurant. There are thousands species of seaweed in the world, but they are divided into 3 main classes based on the color : green, brown, and red. Among them, brown seaweed is the most abundance in amount. From a lecture, I just knew that seaweed is originally come from Indonesia.

Overall, I recommend you to eat fishery products of Hokkaido. You should try Hokkaido scallop (hotate), oishi. And also, when you were in Hakodate, don’t forget to visit Asaichi fish market. Asaichi is located near Hakodate station. You can see many kinds of fishery products at there. Many seafood restaurants also can be found there.