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KUMAMOTO — The Minamata Fishery Cooperative agreed Aug. 18 to remove a net partitioning the once mercury-contaminated Minamata Bay from the outside sea.

The cooperative agreed to lift the partition at an extraordinary meeting of its directors after Kumamoto Gov. Joji Fukushima declared on July 29 that fish and shellfish inside the bay are safe to eat.

Before the end of the week, the Kumamoto Prefectural Government is expected to begin removing the net, a project estimated to cost about 70 million yen.

The removal operation is expected to take about a month and a half, meaning that fish and shellfish caught in the bay will not go on the market until the middle of October.

When the co-op held a meeting of its directors on Aug. 8, some hesitated to approve the removal of the net, forcing the cooperative to postpone its decision until Aug. 18.

Minamata Bay was partitioned from the outside sea with the net in 1974 to prevent the spread of fish and shellfish contaminated with organic mercury contained in waste water from Chisso Corp.’s Minamata factory.

The size of the partitioned area was later reduced in stages to about 2,100 sq. meters.

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