On the menu: fresh seafood from Japan’s nuclear zone
The first seafood caught off Japan’s Fukushima coastline since last year’s nuclear disaster went on sale yesterday, but the fishermen’s offerings were limited to octopus and whelk because of persisting fears about radiation.
Octopus and whelk were chosen for the initial shipments because testing for radioactive caesium consistently measured no detectable amounts, according to the Fukushima prefectural fishing co-operative. They were caught on Friday and boiled so they last longer while being tested for radiation before they could be sold yesterday.
Flounder, sea bass and other fish from Fukushima cannot be sold yet because of contamination. It was unclear when they will be approved for sale as they measure above the radiation limit set by the government. The government is testing for radioactive iodine as well, but its half-life is shorter than caesium and thus is less worrisome.
“It was crisp when I bit into it, and it tasted so good,” said Yasuhiro Yoshida, who oversees the seafood section at York Benimaru supermarket in Soma, which sold its whole consignment of about 30kg of the whelk and 40kg of the octopus.
The 11 March earthquake and tsunami last year left the coastlines of north-eastern Japan devastated, and displaced tens of thousands of people. Entire towns were contaminated by radiation leaking from Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, where three reactors went into meltdown.
“I was filled with both uncertainty and hope today, but I was so happy when I found out the local supermarket had sold out by 3pm,” said Hirofumi Konno, an official in charge of sales at the fishing co-operative in Soma, a city on the Fukushima coast.
He said he hoped crabs would be next to go on sale, as radiation had not been detected in them, but he acknowledged things would take time, perhaps years, especially for other kinds of fish.
Radiation amounts have been decreasing, but caesium lasts for years.
The octopus and whelk were selling at almost half of what they fetched before the disaster, he said. But he said people were buying Fukushima seafood to show support for local fishermen. The items were available locally, but not in the whole prefecture nor the Tokyo area.
Professor Nobuyuki Yagi of the University of Tokyo, who has been studying the fishing industry since the disaster, said serious concerns remained over whether anyone would buy Fukushima fish, and the key lay in finding fish that did not store radioactive elements.
“Fishing cannot survive unless people buy the fish. That may seem obvious, but Fukushima is facing up to this,” he said.
Farmlands have also been contaminated, and every grain of rice will be tested at harvest in some areas before the crop can be sold. The image of Fukushima produce has been seriously tarnished, and worried consumers, especially those with children, are shunning food grown there.
“We are in for the long haul,” Mr Konno said.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 4 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North east