China’s Ban on Japanese Marine Products Impacting Trade Prices, 1 Month After Treated Water Release

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Fisherman Masaaki Akita talks about his concerns over the future of sea cucumber fishing in Yokohama, Aomori Prefecture, on Sunday.

MUTSU, Aomori — About a month after treated water began being released into the ocean from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, China’s subsequent ban on Japanese marine products is gradually having some impact, including a drop in the price of scallops — one of the main items exported to China.

In Aomori Prefecture, fisheries cooperative associations have decided to refrain from sea cucumber fishing. As the second round of treated water discharge is scheduled to begin Thursday, affected fishermen called for continued support for their industry.

“We were expecting to make about ¥2 million from the fishing in October,” said Masaaki Akita who fishes for sea cucumber in the Aomori town of Yokohama, which faces Mutsu Bay.

In Japan, Aomori Prefecture was second only to Hokkaido in volume of sea cucumbers last year, which are treated as a delicacy in China. According to the Aomori office of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), about 22 tons of sea cucumbers were shipped from the prefecture to China last year. The export was worth about ¥780 million.

Normally, the fishing season for sea cucumbers begins in October. However, with no prospect of finding buyers due to China’s suspension of imports of Japanese marine products, the Aomori prefectural federation of fisheries cooperative association on Wednesday requested the 27 cooperatives that conduct sea cucumber fishing in the prefecture to refrain from doing so. By Friday, all the cooperatives had agreed to the request.

The prefectural chapter plans a month-long suspension, but if the situation does not improve, it may extend the period.

“I just have no idea how things will go in the future. I’m so worried,” said Akita who also carries out scallop farming. “It’s like walking in the dark.”

Trade prices have also fallen for some of the marine products that used to be exported to China. Prices have been severely affected for scallops and sea cucumbers, which were exported in large quantities. In Hokkaido, the price per kilogram of scallops fell from ¥195 in mid-July to ¥173 in early September.

Support for Fukushima products

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. began discharging treated water into the ocean on Aug. 24 and completed the first release on Sept. 11. It plans to start the second discharge on Thursday.

Initially, there were concerns over possible damage caused by harmful rumors, such as consumers becoming reluctant to buy seafood caught in Fukushima Prefecture. However, there has been no drop in the trade prices of major fish species so far.

According to the fishing conditions forecast released by the Fukushima prefectural government, the average price of flounder caught by fixed gill nets by the Iwaki fisheries cooperative was ¥1,935 per kilogram during the two-week period from Aug. 24 to Sept. 6 following the treated water discharge. This was the same level of ¥1,719 one month earlier and ¥1,872 during the same period last year.

The Soma-Futaba fisheries cooperative in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, has seen the August sales in its online store triple the monthly average, thanks to consumers supporting the region through the purchase of fishery products.