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Real-Life ‘Jaws’ Terrorizes Japanese Shellfishers

March 19, 1992

TOKYO (AP) _ Shell diver Kazuto Harada’s chilling last words - ″Somebody help me 3/8 Shark, shark 3/8″ - ushered in a real-life version of ″Jaws,″ pitting fishermen on a peaceful Japanese island against a man-eating shark.

On March 8, Harada, 41, screamed his cry for help into an undersea walkie- talkie - but his frantic crew hauled up only an empty orange-and-gray diving suit, ripped by an enormous jagged slash.

Since then, diving for shellfish, the economic mainstay on the island of Oshima in the Inland Sea, has come to a halt. Local fishermen said it was the first such attack in decades in the area, 560 miles southwest of Tokyo.

″No shell divers will dare dive until the man-eating shark is killed,″ said a duty officer at the Matsuyama detachment of Japan’s coast guard, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But the locals are fighting back, and the Japanese national media are eagerly following the story.

Every day, fishermen take to the sea in dozens of boats to hunt for the shark - or sharks. Since Japanese nouns are the same in the singular and plural, it was not known whether Harada’s terrified shout - ″Sameh 3/8″ - meant more than one shark.

″Jaws″ was popular in Japan, but the Japanese are going about their shark hunt a bit differently than in the 1970s movie, based on Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel.

For one thing, the effort is a cooperative one, involving almost the entire fishing community.

And unlike the shark-hunters in the movie, who finally killed the great white shark with explosives and other weapons, the fishermen are armed only with sharp metal hooks. Baited ropes are used to try to lure the shark.

Only two weeks before the fatal attack, Harada’s brother, Koji, had survived an encounter with a 16-foot shark about 80 feet below the surface.

Koji Harada, 30, said later he knew he would be killed if he made any quick movements. So he curled up motionless on the sea bed. The shark bumped his helmet, he said, but then broke off the attack.

Senzo Uchida, curator at an aquarium on the southern island of Okinawa, said playing dead was the best tactic.

″Koji Harada was not killed because he did not act like bait,″ he said.

On Thursday, the locals decided to expand the hunt to nearby waters, including those off Matsuyama and Nagahama, where shark sightings have been reported.

Diving for shellfish including abalone usually runs from Dec. 1 through April 20 on Oshima. There is very little arable land, so the island relies almost entirely on fishing for its livelihood.

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