Seafood industry faces uncertainty amid radiation concerns over discharge
Japan's decision to release more than 1.3 million metric tons of radioactive wastewater into the sea has spooked Chinese consumers of seafood, threatening the livelihood of China's own fishing communities and seafood farmers.
Shortly after the Japanese government began discharging nuclear-contaminated water into the sea from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on Thursday, worrying comments appeared on livestreams hosted by fishermen in coastal Zhejiang province who were advertising their latest hauls.
A comment on the livestream read "You are doing harmful stuff", falsely accusing the host of being irresponsible for vending nuclear-contaminated food.
"Please stop buying seafood for your own safety," read another as its author sought to scare away potential buyers.
The remarks, which have led to the emotional breakdowns of several hosts on live broadcasts, were reported by a news website owned by Zhejiang Daily newspaper.
In a desperate move to sell her products, one host shouted at the camera that their seafood was caught close to the shore and wouldn't be polluted by the recent discharge.
China's customs authorities on Thursday announced a sweeping ban on Japanese seafood imports out of safety concerns over such products.
Zhou Zhongyuan, a marine life researcher at Ocean University of China in the seaside city of Qingdao, Shandong province, told the website the self-imposed boycott of China's sea catches was needless.
"Seafood from Chinese waters is still free to be consumed, as it is subject to strict safety screening processes before hitting the market," he said.
On Friday, an unnamed official with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, which oversees seafood production, told People's Daily that the ministry attaches great importance to the quality and safety of aquatic products.
"The ministry will strictly adhere to the national standards for the maximum allowable concentration of radioactive substances in aquatic products, and will strengthen the monitoring of nuclear pollution risks in marine aquatic products to ensure their quality," the official said.
The potential harm that the discharge of contaminated water may pose to the marine fishing industry will also be closely monitored in order to ensure the healthy development of the industry, the official added.
On Friday, authorities in Wenzhou, another seaside city in Zhejiang, created an office that will collect samples every two months in its surrounding waters to monitor for radioactive contamination, local media reported.
In an interview with Wenzhou Daily on Sunday, Wan Xinlong, a radioactive contamination expert and head of the new office, said they had collected such samples twice since late last year when the discharge was in the planning stages, and the results showed that no pollution has reached waters near Wenzhou.
According to last year's National Fishery Economy Statistical Bulletin, an annual report released by the agricultural ministry, the value of China's marine fishing industry was 249 billion yuan ($34.16 billion) last year, and the output value of the fast-growing industry of marine life farming was 464 billion yuan.