Projet Grand Maillet is named after the first new research vessel built for the International Coastal Research Center in Otsuchi since the disaster. The name of Otsuchi town means ‘big maillet’ in English and ‘grand maillet’ in French.

What is Projet Grand Maillet?

The 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake was one of the biggest natural disasters humankind has ever experienced. Our mission is to ascertain the impact that the earthquake and tsunami had on the Tohoku coastal area, and observe the subsequent process of transition over the course of time. Based on this information, we will clarify what is needed to restore the area’s fishing industry. 

In order to execute this mission, the Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute (AORI) of the University of Tokyo launched Projet Grand Maillet, which is based in Otsuchi town. Otsuchi’s name means ‘big maillet’ in English and ‘grand maillet’ in French. Projet Grand Maillet is named after the first new research vessel built for the International Coastal Research Center since the disaster. 

Projet Grand Maillet is a part of Tohoku Ecosystem-Associated Marine Sciences (TEAMS), funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan (MEXT). AORI will carry out scientific research in close collaboration with Tohoku University and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC).

About Otsuchi Town

What happened on March 11, 2011?

The Northwest Pacific is one of the world’s major fishing grounds. The Tohoku region in the northeastern area of Japan’s main island of Honshu is one of the biggest seafood production areas in Japan. The main industry of the towns and villages on the Pacific coast is fishing. At 2:46 pm on March 11, 2011, an earthquake hit the Pacific coast of Tohoku. The subsequent tsunami seriously damaged fishing villages and towns in the coastal area.

What happened to Otsuchi town?

Otsuchi is a small town in Iwate Prefecture with population of 15,000. The fishing industry has always played an important role in the area. Most of the buildings and fishing-related facilities at the heart of the town were destroyed by the disaster. About 10 percent of the population was killed or remain listed as missing. One of the most important tasks today is to find a way to revive the town and rebuild its fishing facilities.

Horai Island   Otsuchi bay

Horai Island and Otsuchi Bay

What happened to the Research Center in Otsuchi?

The Center was originally established by the Ocean Research Institute of the University of Tokyo as the Otsuchi Marine Research Center in 1973, and reorganized into the International Coastal Research Center (ICRC) in 2003 for the purpose of conducting cooperative basic research on coastal marine science. Most of the facilities of the ICRC were destroyed by the tsunami that struck in March 2011. Our mission is to rebuild the ICRC and to make Otsuchi town the center of basic research on coastal marine science once again, so that it can continue to contribute to the restoration of the beautiful environment around the Tohoku coastal area.

ICRC befor the disaster   on March 11, 2011, disaster.

ICRC before the disaster, on March 11, 2011, and after the disaster.

The Goals of Projet Grand Maillet

1. We will investigate the sea

What is going on in the sea since the earthquake in March 2011? And what will be the future? We install underwater monitoring equipment and combine observations from research vessels as well as diving operations. We will find the answers by making full use of the latest modern technologies and analytical methods.

2. We will elucidate the mechanisms of increasing fish production

Why are fish abundant in the waters of the Pacific coast of Tohoku? To learn the answer, we have to conduct multidisciplinary research with specialists in the fields of physics, chemistry, and biology. Our research will ascertain the basic mechanism of fish production in the surrounding areas of Otsuchi, which will help support the fishing industry of the local community.

3. Our research is related to the local community

The year 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the International Coastal Research Center of AORI in Otsuchi. We strongly hope to restore the Center as quickly as possible. We want to make our research findings beneficial and easily comprehensible to the town’s community. The Center will also offer a new public space for local people.

4. From all around Japan and all over the world to Otsuchi

AORI promotes the project by working with more than 160 researchers and graduate students from 16 universities and two Fisheries Technology Centers from all over Japan. Our aim is to restore the International Coastal Research Center as a base for international research that will host researchers from Japan and from all over the world.