TOKYO: Japan’s fisheries agency said on Saturday that fish tested in waters around the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant did not contain detectable levels of the radioactive isotope tritium.
Nets were set up on Thursday when the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) began releasing treated radioactive water into the Pacific, angering fishermen and many others in Japan, alarming consumers in neighbouring countries and prompting China to ban Japanese aquatic products.
The agency plans to announce test results daily. Tepco said on Friday that seawater near the plant contained less than 10 becquerels of tritium per litre, below its self-imposed limit of 700 becquerels and far below the World Health Organization’s limit of 10,000 becquerels for drinking water.
Calls to the fisheries agency for comment were not answered on Saturday.
After lengthy debate, the government of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida decided on Tuesday to allow the gradual release of 1.3 million tonnes of treated water from the Fukushima plant, destroyed by a 2011 tsunami, because Tepco was running out of storage space.
The utility filters most radioactive elements out of the water, but it dilutes tritium, an isotope of hydrogen, which is difficult to separate from water.
In Beijing, meanwhile, fish dealers at a local market appeared shocked after China banned all seafood imports from Japan.
With Chinese state media reports and social media posts filled with information emphasising negative effects of the Fukushima water release on the marine environment and human body, the local food industry also expressed wariness about the outlook for businesses related to “washoku”, or traditional Japanese cuisine.
A fish dealer at the Beijing market said on Friday the company had mainly procured cultured tuna from Nagasaki Prefecture in southwestern Japan due partly to the neighbouring country’s advanced farming technology and stable supply, but now has to explore different sources such as Australia, New Zealand and Spain.
However, the taste and texture of tuna from other countries are “totally different” from those of Japanese imports and it is “impossible to replace them”, the dealer said.
A worker at a retailer selling Japanese sake and seasonings said she was worried that nobody would be willing to consume Japanese food in China.
Tadashi Sasaki, who heads the Shanghai office that promotes Nagasaki Prefecture, expressed regret about the total import ban, saying seafood was the prefecture’s mainstay export item.
In 2022, China topped the list of Japan’s agricultural, fishery and forestry product export destinations, with such shipments hitting ¥278.2 billion, ($1.9 billion), up more than five-fold compared with 2013.