Treated Water Release: Dining on Fukushima Seafood One Way to Fight Harmful Rumors

With the release of treated water stored at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. into the ocean, there is growing momentum in Japan to actively purchase marine products from Fukushima Prefecture. It is necessary to expand a circle of support so as not to yield to China’s hard-line approach.

When the release of treated water into the sea began on Aug. 24, the Chinese government banned all imports of Japanese marine products. Numerous crank phone calls, presumably from China, have been received at local government offices, eating and drinking establishments, hospitals and other locations in Fukushima Prefecture.

As Japanese citizens have long witnessed the plight of the afflicted areas since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, there must be many who cannot accept China’s unilateral and scientifically baseless stance.

It is quite natural that they felt moved to support the producers and others in Fukushima Prefecture, where the nuclear power plant is located.

The waters off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture are known as good fishing grounds for flatfish and octopus. Such seafood, called “Jobanmono” for the coastal Joban region, is highly valued in the market. It would be greatly regrettable if harmful rumors were to make that seafood unsellable.

Governors in various prefectures have expressed their intention to offer menus using ingredients from Fukushima Prefecture at cafeterias in their government buildings. The Tokyo metropolitan government and the Hyogo prefectural government, among others, have already done so. Fukushima Prefecture has reportedly received a number of inquiries from municipalities across the country regarding the supply of foodstuffs.

The city of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, offers a large selection of processed local seafood products as return gifts under the furusato nozei tax donation system. The city said that it saw a surge in tax donations over several days following the central government’s decision on the date to release the treated water into the sea.

There may be various forms of support that individuals can provide to the afflicted areas, such as ordering food ingredients from Fukushima Prefecture or actually visiting the affected areas. Now is the time to cherish the feeling of being close to the those areas.

It is not only the people of Fukushima who are concerned about declining sales. Hokkaido and other prefectures in the Tohoku region, which export scallops and abalone to China, have also been affected by the Chinese embargo.

The Japanese government should promote policies such as moving away from dependence on the Chinese market and expanding new sales channels.

Japan has long had a spirit of mutual assistance, or “helping each other in times of trouble.” Because of the difficult situation, it is hoped that each and every member of the public will exercise that spirit and think about what they can do to support the afflicted areas.

The treated water is being discharged into the sea after being diluted with a large amount of seawater. Since the start of the discharge, TEPCO, the central government and others have been conducting monitoring activities regarding the treated water in the surrounding sea areas. In the surveys, the detected level of tritium, a radioactive substance, has remained far below the international standard.

It is also essential for the government to disseminate such objective information to the world in an easy-to-understand manner to deepen understanding of the appropriateness of the discharge of treated water and the safety of Japanese marine products.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 7, 2023)