Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike should issue “a safety declaration” over soil contamination at the Tsukiji fish market’s planned new site in Toyosu on Tokyo Bay to ease public concerns and allow the project to proceed, the head of the Tsukiji wholesalers cooperative said Wednesday.
Junichi Ito, whose cooperative comprises 570 intermediate wholesale businesses at the famed market, told a news conference that groundwater surveys have shown the level of soil pollution at the Toyosu site in Koto Ward is now lower than legal levels.
He said the problem is the lack of a “sense of security” and confidence among the public and cooperative members about the safety of the site.
“Legal hurdles have already been overcome,” Ito said. “We’d like the governor to put an end to this (pollution) issue.”
Koike formally announced her decision Aug. 31 to delay moving the fish market from the Tsukiji neighborhood in Chuo Ward.
Ito said he was “extremely shocked” when he heard the governor’s announcement postponing the relocation, which was originally planned for Nov. 7, to January or later.
He admitted that members of the cooperative have been split over the relocation for the last two decades. Recent heated media reports over Koike’s decision could further fan confrontation within the group, according to Ito.
Meanwhile, representatives within the cooperative have already approved the fiscal 2016 business plan and budget for the entity, which includes funds and plans for the relocation project, Ito said.
“So there is no opinion for or against the relocation” among cooperative members, he insisted.
Still, many of Tsukiji’s wholesalers welcomed Koike’s decision, expressing concerns over the reported soil contamination, the tight relocation schedule and poor facilities at the Toyosu site.
Some fish dealers interviewed by The Japan Times said they were not informed and still don’t know how the cooperative reached the decision to approve the Nov. 7 relocation plan. Others complained of a lack of information and details made available by executives in the cooperative and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
During Wednesday’s news conference, Ito admitted the cooperative did not hold a vote on whether to approve the Nov. 7 relocation date proposed by the metropolitan government. But, he said, he believes a consensus has been reached among members in the group.
Ito said he has held 53 meetings with cooperative members to explain the relocation plan since he took the post in 2013.
He also said that two large communal fish-cutting facilities will be opened at the Toyosu site to address concerns by tuna dealers with small stalls.
Some wholesale tuna merchants recently discovered that the stall space they were allocated was only 1.5 meters in width, too narrow to cut large fish.
The issue, played up in media reports, has highlighted what many consider poor planning and communications by the metropolitan government in dealing with the fish dealers over the relocation project.
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