Fukushima fish: It’s back on the menu
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Fukushima fish: It’s back on the menu

Small traces of radioactive cesium have been found to be present in Japan’s fish and seawater, probably originating from the Fukushima disaster and spreading via rainfall, according to Japanese authorities.

Though extremely toxic, the levels of cesium found are so low that they are considered to be harmless to humans.

Japan’s seafood industry, already harmed by the 2011 nuclear disaster, is naturally vulnerable to any reports of such findings, harmless or otherwise. Following Fukushima some fish with levels far exceeding legal limits were discovered.

From Russia Today:

The highest levels of cesium in fish were detected in March, a year after the accident, when a landlocked masu salmon caught in a Japanese river was found to have 18,700 Becquerel of cesium per kilogram, or 187 times Japan’s legal limit for radiation in seafood. (A Becquerel is a unit of radioactivity equal in which one nucleus decays per second).

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pic: Wally Gobetz (Flickr CC)

15 months after the disaster seafood from Fukushima itself has recently returned to Japanese shelves, starting with octopus and whelks (marine snails). So far no traces of radioactivity have been found in the catches, according to officials. This is good news for the fishing industry, which was devastated with the double whammy of tsunami and nuclear meltdown.

So far sales (at a discount) have been good in Fukushima and octopus have recently been auctioned in Tokyo at a premium price (due to strict controls, limiting supply). Other species besides whelks and octopus are currently still off limits until their safety can be determined.

A local fisherman, 73-year-old Tadashi Sakurai, is quoted in the Guardian:

Most of our nets were washed away and our ice storage facility was ruined. Selling octopuses and shellfish doesn’t mean we’re back in business. This isn’t a recovery, and won’t be until we increase our catch and people around Japan start eating it again.

Meanwhile Fukushima’s carp breeders, previously Japan’s leading source of farmed carp, are coming up with ways to return to number one after consumers got cold feet about eating fish bred so close to the nuclear disaster. The carp has been tested and shown to be safe, but breeders are investing in an expensive (and possibly cruel) method of raising carp in order to boost buyer confidence.

From Yomiuri Shimbun:

The union has decided to adopt a new cultivation method that prevents carp from swimming near the bottom of cultivation pools where there is dirt, as consumers are nervous about dirt being ingested by carp. The new method floats a net in a pool and lets carp swim only in that net.