Rising Local Fish Consumption in Japan Despite China’s Ban Linked to Fukushima Effluent

by Lucas Garcia
Fukushima seafood consumption

Despite concerns about the release of treated radioactive wastewater from the devastated Fukushima nuclear facility into the ocean, Japanese consumers are displaying unexpected support for their local fisheries.

Rather than causing economic devastation as many feared, the national response has been to bolster the industry by increasing the intake of locally-sourced fish. This consumer trend has not only reinforced a vulnerable sector but has also helped to cushion the blow from China’s import embargo on Japanese seafood. Nevertheless, the longevity of this initiative remains uncertain as the wastewater discharge continues.

“At the fish market close to Onahama Port, situated in the vicinity of Fukushima, I’ve observed no anxiety amongst the populace regarding the treated wastewater being released into the ocean. Frankly, it’s as much a relief as it is a surprise,” shared Kazuto Harada from Marufuto Fish Store.

Orders are pouring in from all corners of the country, with “Joban-mono” — the term for fish caught off the coasts of Fukushima and neighboring Ibaraki — gaining popularity. The sought-after regional delicacies include flounder and greeneye, both of which are flying off the shelves by the close of the day.

Tokyo resident Sumie Nouchi made a special trip to the Lalamew seafood market, her golf day excursion concluding with a seafood haul that included rosy seabass and greeneye, among others. “The water discharge doesn’t concern me,” she affirmed. “I’m basing my trust on the consistent safety results from sampling.”

On August 24, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant initiated the discharge of wastewater that had been treated and diluted to lessen radioactivity, a necessary move due to the accumulating 1.3 million tons of contaminated water since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster. With storage tanks nearing full capacity and decommissioning efforts requiring space, this was seen as a critical step, albeit a contentious one.

Treated to remove most radioactive substances and then further diluted, the water is released into the sea at levels well below international safety standards. However, the decision has met with significant opposition from local fishermen and neighboring countries, leading to protests in South Korea and an immediate ban by China on Japanese seafood imports — a substantial blow to the industry, particularly for northern Japanese producers favored by the Chinese market.

In an attempt to alleviate concerns and endorse the safety of Fukushima seafood, Japanese officials and even the United States Embassy in Tokyo have been active in promoting the product and finding new market avenues. Despite the controversy surrounding the discharges, market prices for Fukushima fish have remained steady, occasionally even surpassing typical rates.

Yet, as Katsuya Goto, a Fukushima fisheries official, cautions, the situation remains delicate: “We are under close scrutiny; any discrepancies in the wastewater discharge or sampling could damage our fisheries’ reputation.”

The support campaign for Fukushima seafood is expanding, with various initiatives from mail-order fish to “eat and cheer” subsidy drives, and even renowned chefs from Kyoto planning to showcase Fukushima fish in their prestigious menus.

The resurgence of Fukushima’s fishing industry is a testament to resilience, yet it still operates at a fraction of its capacity pre-crisis. Local stores, like Ichiyoshi in the Lalamew market, report a surge in demand post-wastewater discharge, but supplies are constrained.

As these efforts continue to reinforce the local fisheries, experts advise that sustained, long-term strategies are essential to ensure not only the industry’s revival but also its safety standards.

For comprehensive coverage on this and other Asia-Pacific stories, visit bigbignews.net/asia-pacific.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Fukushima seafood consumption

What is the response of Japanese consumers to the release of Fukushima’s treated wastewater?

Japanese consumers have rallied to support their local fishing communities by increasing their consumption of locally caught fish, countering fears that the release of treated wastewater into the ocean would deter them. This surge in demand has bolstered the industry and mitigated the impact of China’s import ban on Japanese seafood.

How is Fukushima’s treated wastewater managed before being released into the ocean?

Before the release into the ocean, the wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is treated to remove most radioactive materials. It is then diluted with seawater to levels that are considerably below international safety standards, ensuring its safety for marine life and humans.

What impact has China’s ban on Japanese seafood had on the industry?

China’s ban on Japanese seafood, especially from the northern regions renowned for products like scallops and sea cucumbers, has dealt a significant blow to Japanese seafood producers, processors, and exporters. However, the increased domestic consumption of seafood from the Fukushima region has helped to offset some of the negative effects of the ban.

What measures are being taken to promote Fukushima seafood and find new markets?

The Japanese government and various stakeholders have initiated multiple efforts to promote Fukushima seafood and find new markets. These include setting up relief funds, temporary purchasing and storage of seafood, promoting sales within Japan, and engaging with international partners like the United States Embassy to explore new market opportunities.

What are the long-term concerns for the Fukushima fisheries industry following the wastewater discharge?

Experts warn that while current efforts to boost the consumption of Fukushima fish are commendable, these are not permanent solutions. The fisheries industry in the region will require sustained and long-term strategies to ensure a robust revival and maintain safety standards, avoiding any potential safety lapses that could damage the reputation and trust that has been built.

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Rachel Green November 3, 2023 - 8:26 am

so they’re saying the fish is safe but with all the protocols and stuff but I dunno if I could eat something knowing it’s been anywhere near radioactive water. just the thought makes me uneasy.

Sara Kim November 3, 2023 - 11:32 am

Heard about the china ban but didnt realize how much it’s affecting the local markets, or how the Japanese government is handling the situation. They seem to be doing a lot to manage this issue.

Tommy Lee November 3, 2023 - 5:01 pm

looks like the demand for the local fish has gone up thats a good sign for the fisherfolks. Also those safety measures for the treated water seem strict but people always gonna have doubts you know.

Chris T. November 3, 2023 - 8:17 pm

surprised to see the level of support from consumers and the government alike, got to give it to the Japanese for their solidarity. But still there’s a long road ahead for Fukushima’s fishing industry, hope they keep up with the safety checks.

Mike Johnson November 4, 2023 - 3:29 am

its interesting to see how the local consumers are stepping up to help the fishermen despite the concerns with the wastewater, i mean its a good thing but wonder if it’s sustainable long term?


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