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Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Ayu of the Nagara River System

Summary

Site location:  Gifu City, Seki City, Mino City and Gujo City, Gifu Prefecture, Japan

Area of GIAHS: 182,400ha (1,824km2)

Population working for this system: 6,052

Topological Characteristics: forests, rivers and the surrounding plains

Climatic Classification: temperate humid climate

Ethnic Groups/Indigenous People: -

Primary Income Sources: agriculture (paddy rice, upland crops), forestry, fisheries (inland fisheries), commerce and tourism


On the upper and middle courses of the Nagara River located in Gifu Prefecture exist thriving inland fisheries which revolve around a species of Japanese sweetfish called “ayu” (Plecoglossus altivelis altivelis). Despite flowing through urban and residential areas, the pristine Nagara River that runs through the site’s centre boasts an abundance of clear, high quality water, and is also considered one of Japan’s three clearest rivers. The people of the region receive the river’s bounty and in turn strive to conserve it for future generations.

Ayu are a migratory species that move between oceans and rivers and can only inhabit remarkably clean water. The ayu of the Nagara River in particular have long been considered a local specialty and were crucial to the development of the region’s food culture, as well as traditional fishing techniques such as cormorant fishing. Indispensable to the fisheries products, processing, and tourism industries, ayu are an integral part of many peoples’ livelihoods

The landscapes of the Nagara River and ayu are not just the pride and joy of the local people, but essential to their daily lives as a source of drinking and irrigation water as well. The locals seek to conserve them by nurturing forests and water sources so that the quality of the water, as well as the habitat for ayu and many other rare species of fish, can be conserved. Thus, the Nagara River can be called Satokawa, which through proper maintenance and sustainable use by the local people possesses economic and spiritual value, and supports the conservation of biodiversity.