TEPCO to Aid Fisheries Amid Treated Water Discharge Fears; Compensation Could be Billions of Yen for August Alone

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Workers process scallops in Aomori Prefecture in September.

As China inflames fears over the discharge of treated water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. has begun compensation procedures for fisheries entities suffering damage to their business.

China has continued its scientifically baseless ban on the import of Japanese marine products, as TEPCO started the second round of treated water discharge on Thursday. The first round ran from Aug. 24 to Sept. 11.

The impact of reactions to the discharge has been felt in multiple regions of Japan. The government and the private sector plans to accelerate support for those affected.

TEPCO began compensation procedures on Oct. 2 for damage such as drops in sales of marine products. The company has set up consultation desks manned by TEPCO employees to help with procedures such as filling out forms in places including Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.

The majority of compensation payments are unlikely to come before November because of the time required to determine the amount of damage.

TEPCO has already received about 200 complaints, including ones from businesses saying they are unable to export their products and that prices have dropped domestically. The amount of compensation for the damage in August alone is estimated to be in the billions of yen, and TEPCO has about 1,000 employees working on the matter.

In cases where there is an urgent need for funds, the procedures are being accelerated, and there are several cases where compensation has already been paid.

At TEPCO’s Ishinomaki consultation desk, a man from a local fishery processing company visited on Thursday and said: “We have been losing about ¥10 million in sales each week, which is a big blow to our business. We plan to seek compensation for our loss.” His company had been exporting Hokkaido scallops, but the contract was abruptly terminated in July, just before the treated water release began.

According to the Fisheries Agency, around the time of the first discharge, the trading price of scallops in the Tohoku and Hokkaido regions dropped by about 10%.

The import ban by China, which had accounted for slightly more than 20% of Japan’s seafood exports, also had a major impact, with August exports to China down 65% from the same month last year to ¥3.6 billion. Further drops are expected to appear in the data for September and beyond.

Scallops and sea cucumbers, a major portion of which used to be exported to China, have been particularly affected.

Although campaigns to boost domestic consumption of these products are being held in various regions by major food service companies and others, “prices have remained low,” according to a senior official of the Fisheries Agency.

In Aomori Prefecture, 27 local fisheries cooperatives have decided to suspend fishing of sea cucumbers for the month of October due to a lack of buyers. The prefectural federation of fisheries cooperative associations is discussing compensation with TEPCO. Harumi Niki, chairman of the federation, says, “In any case, we hope the compensation will be paid soon.”

Sales of Japanese cosmetics such as those of Shiseido Co., which had been very popular in China, are also showing signs of slowing. According to industry associations, there have been new requests from trading counterparts for information on raw material suppliers, among other issues. Delays in distribution due to lengthy customs inspections have also occurred.

China’s Import Ban Hurts its Own Fishing Industry

China, which opposes the release of treated water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, is continuing to make scientifically unfounded claims through state media, with a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman referring to the treated water as “nuclear-contaminated water.”

However, few countries have aligned themselves with China on the treated water issue at occasions such as the annual general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Employees at a seafood market in Beijing wait for customers on Saturday.

The treated water issue no longer appears in the top group of results even in searches of Chinese social media sites, which were filled with posts critical of Japan a month ago. There also are far fewer posts urging people to make crank phone calls to Japan.

The Chinese government has barred Japanese seafood imports since Aug. 24, but one result of the measure has been a worsening of the image of marine products as a whole in China.

“More and more people are avoiding fish and shellfish. Business has been slow even though this is supposed to be one of the busiest seasons for us,” a man selling shellfish at a Beijing seafood market said Saturday.

The impact on the fisheries industry is expected to have a limited influence on China’s overall economy, but if the situation is prolonged, the public, especially the fisheries industry, will become more frustrated, contributing to instability in the country.

The Chinese government may try to calm the situation, but a diplomatic source in Beijing said, “Although China tried to treat the issue as a new diplomatic card with which to criticize Japan, it does not know how to lower its fists once it has raised them.”

China is likely to continue to struggle to assess Japan’s reaction to the issue for the time being.