Reviving Fukushima’s fisheries

A fishing cooperative in Fukushima Prefecture on June 14 carried out a fishing operation on a trial basis off the prefecture. The prefecture’s fishing industry has suffered greatly from the severe accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The bottom line was to confirm that fish caught in waters off the prefecture are safe. It is hoped that the trial operation can lead to full-scale fishing operations and the revival of the prefecture’s fishing industry.

For one year and three months after the nuclear crisis happened, the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations has refrained from fishing operations and, instead, concentrated on monitoring the concentration of radiation in fish and shellfish off the prefecture.

Fukushima fishermen are suffering from rumors that their fishing products may not be safe

On June 14, six fishing boats of the Soma Futaba Fishing Cooperative in the city of Soma left Matsukawa-ura fishing port and carried out dragnet fishery operations in an area 150 meters or more deep about 50 km from the shore. They caught mizu dako (North Pacific giant octopus), yanagi dako (Octopus conispadiceus) and shiraito makibai (a kind of spiral shellfish). Tests done by the Fukushima prefectural government since last summer have detected no radioactive substances in these fish and shellfish.

The fish and shellfish caught on June 14 will not be shipped to markets. If the results of the tests by the fishing cooperative are accepted by the heads of the prefecture’s fishing cooperatives, the fishing cooperative in Soma will carry out fishing operations twice this month with an eye toward shipping the catches to markets.

Depending on the outcome of these operations, it may catch a larger number of different types of fish and shellfish.

The impetus to launch the fishing trial operation was the feeling by local fishermen that they cannot continue to rely on compensation from Tepco and that if they do not resume fishing now, the fishing industry of Fukushima Prefecture may die out.

According to the Fisheries Agency, the concentration of radioactive cesium on the sea bottom is generally decreasing. But in April, Japanese sea perch caught in Sendai Bay some 100 km from the nuclear power plant were found to contain radioactive cesium exceeding the safety standard level.

It is difficult to predict how contamination has spread across the nation. If the Soma Futaba fishing cooperative can accumulate data proving the safety of its catches, consumers would regain their confidence in the safety of Fukushima fish.