More Fukushima fishermen start trial operations

Kyodo

Another group of Fukushima Prefecture fishermen restarted operations on a trial basis Friday for the first time since the nuclear plant disaster began in March 2011.

The move by a fisheries cooperative based in the prefecture’s southern district of Iwaki came after the Soma Futaba cooperative in the north began trial fishing in June 2012, although it suspended operations for a month until late September due to a radioactive water spill into the sea at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, which suffered three reactor core meltdowns.

Iwaki fishermen will catch only eight types of seafood at a depth of more than 150 meters, including North Pacific giant octopus. Their catches were to go on the market Saturday at the earliest, after radiation safety checks.

They will fish away from the coast once a week for the time being, and decide whether to fish near the coast after gauging consumer reactions, according to the cooperative.

A total of 13 boats left ports before dawn Friday and returned with their catches in the morning.

Hisashi Yoshida, 62, said after returning to Hisanohama port that he was “deeply moved” to have returned to the sea to fish, although he has set sail to catch samples for testing and to recover debris since the disaster struck.

“This is the first step to resume our fishing in earnest. I hope we will be able to catch a wider variety of fish soon,” he said.

The Iwaki co-op had planned to begin trial operations Sept. 5 but postponed them due to the radioactive water spill, although it has been widely reported that almost 400 tons of radioactive groundwater is believed flowing into the Pacific daily. Tepco’s tanks for storing highly radioactive water have also been leaking, with the water reaching the sea.

Even after the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations decided to allow the restart of operations Sept. 24, Iwaki fishermen were unable to go out due to bad weather.

The Soma Futaba group suspended fishing for about a month due to the spill, before resuming it in late September following a safety declaration by the federation.

Meanwhile, seawater samples taken off the crippled plant have seen radiation levels soar.