The Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami of March 11, 2011 devastated the northeastern Japanese coast. Monday, June 25 marks the first time since the disaster that seafood harvested off the coastline has been offered for sale in Japanese markets. Shortly after the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant samples from seafood harvested near the region showed dangerously elevated levels of radionuclides. As a result of the radioactive contamination of the Pacific Ocean following the nuclear incident the Japanese government was forced to ban the sale of seafood caught off the Fukushima coastline.
So far there are only two species approved for sale due to lingering fears over radioactivity. After rigorous testing by Japanese authorities whelk and octopus from the Fukushima region were approved for sale and consumption. Whelk and octopus were chosen because they showed no detectable amounts of radioactive cesium or iodine. Cesium is of particular concern for regulators due to its longer half-life, and thus its ability to bioaccumulate over a longer period of time. However, the fishing industry near Fukushima is not entirely back to normal yet. Other species of seafood that were tested, such as flounder, crab, and sea bass are as of yet unapproved for sale due to their elevated levels of radionuclides.
The Fukushima seafood offered for sale sold relatively well, given the remaining fear of radioactive contamination. According to officials the octopus and snail sold out in only a few hours. These brisk sales are believed to be the result of discounted prices and a sense of solidarity between the consumers and Fukushima anglers. Customers’ willingness to purchase seafood from the Fukushima region is a relief for the fishermen there, but they are still facing an uphill struggle. It may be decades before levels of radioactivity return to normal near the coast of Fukushima, but the fishermen there are optimistic after Monday’s sales results.
Image from Steve Cadman, stevecadman from the flickr Creative Commons