As of Monday, October 16, following Tokyo’s discharge of wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant, Russia has decided to halt all imports of Japanese seafood.
Earlier, China had taken similar action, citing concerns about the accuracy and safety of the nuclear wastewater data and its potential impact on the marine environment and human health. It’s worth noting that China was the largest market for Japanese fish, with exports valued at over $500 million in 2022.
In solidarity with its ally China, Russia has decided to halt seafood trade with Japan. This decision comes in response to Japan’s release of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean, with Russia’s agricultural watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, announcing that it will adopt similar temporary restrictions on the import of fish and seafood products from Japan starting on October 16, 2023.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the operation to discharge treated and diluted water into the ocean adheres to international safety regulations. The ban will continue until Russia obtains the information required to verify the safety of marine products and their compliance with the Eurasian Economic Union’s standards. The watchdog also mentioned that their experts will evaluate the provided data.
In late September, Russia asked for details regarding the techniques employed for radiological assessments of Japanese seafood meant for export. This request encompassed information about the laboratories responsible for conducting the tests, as well as the levels of cesium, strontium, and ruthenium in both seafood and the water surrounding the Fukushima release area.
In 2011, a powerful earthquake and tsunami led to meltdowns in three reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear facility in northeastern Japan, resulting in the loss of approximately 18,000 lives. Fast forward twelve years to August, Japan initiated the release of treated contaminated water from the damaged plant into the Pacific Ocean. In response, China imposed a ban on all imports of Japanese seafood, criticizing Japan for its “selfish” and “irresponsible” action and accusing it of treating the sea as a disposal site.
The Japanese government, which has criticized China’s prohibition as “political and unscientific,” is yet to respond to Russia’s decision.
The Big Impact
Japan asserts that the operation to release Fukushima’s treated wastewater into the ocean is safe, a position supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency. A United Nations nuclear watchdog team, including a Chinese scientist, is scheduled to collect water and fish samples near the release site this week.
In contrast, Beijing contends that Tokyo has not sufficiently demonstrated the credibility and precision of the nuclear wastewater data, nor has it proven that discharging the water into the ocean is harmless to marine ecosystems and human health.
Before the ban, China stood as Japan’s largest market for fish, representing over $500 million in exports in 2022. Japan’s government has pledged additional support to the fishing industry while also seeking to expand its exports to Europe and other regions. When it comes to seafood trade, Russia plays a less significant role for Japan, accounting for approximately $1.7 million in marine product exports in 2022. In contrast, Russia exported seafood worth $1.04 billion to Japan.
Following the initial round of water discharge, China implemented a comprehensive prohibition on the import of Japanese seafood. Despite continued apprehensions from certain nations, such as China, and local fishermen, Japan initiated the second round of water discharge in early October.