SKorea bans fish from NE Japan on radiation fears

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - South
Korea announced Friday that it was
banning all fish imports from along
Japan's northeastern coast because
of what officials called growing
public worry over radioactive water
leaking into the Pacific Ocean near
the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi
nuclear power plant.
Fisheries in Fukushima prefecture
(state) are nearly all closed, and
fish caught in nearby prefectures
are sold on the Japanese market
only after tests have shown them to
be safe for consumption.
However, South Korea's ban applies
to a total of eight prefectures with
a combined coastline of more than
700 kilometers (430 miles),
regardless of whether the fish pass
safety standards or not.
The South Korean government made
the move because of insufficient
information from Tokyo about what
steps will be taken to address the
leakage of contaminated water from
the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear
power plant, according to a
statement by the Ministry of Oceans
and Fisheries.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant's
operator, acknowledges that tons of
radioactive water has been seeping
into the Pacific from the plant for
more than two years after the
March 2011 earthquake and
tsunami led to meltdowns at three
reactors at the plant. Recent leaks
from tanks storing radioactive water
used to cool the reactors have
added to fears that the amount of
contaminated water is getting out
of hand.
Japan's chief Cabinet secretary,
Yoshihide Suga, said Friday that fish
and seafood that go to market are
tested for radiation and shown to
be safe. Suga also stressed that the
contaminated water flowing into the
ocean is limited to a small area off
the coast of the Fukushima plant.
"There is an international standard
on food, including fish, and we are
carrying out stringent safety
controls based on those standards.
We ask South Korea for a response
based on science," he told
reporters.
South Korea Vice Fisheries Minister
Son Jae-hak said in a briefing that
the eight prefectures in 2012
exported to South Korea 5,000
metric tons of fishery products, or
about 13 percent of the 40,000 total
tons imported last year from Japan.
Fish will be banned from the
following prefectures: Aomori, Iwate,
Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma,
Tochigi and Chiba.
Hisashi Hiroyama, a Japanese
Fisheries Agency official, said Japan
exports about 9.2 billion ($92
million) of fish a year to South
Korea. The most common fish
exported from Japan to South Korea
was Alaskan Pollock.
Japan bans the shipment, or sale
locally, of food products whose
radiation levels exceed 100
becquerels per kilogram. The
government has been carrying out
radiation checks on various types of
food in the disaster-struck
northeastern part of Japan.
For Fukushima, the latest food check
was carried out Sept. 4, and a
flounder, for instance, was found to
have 110 becquerels of radiation
per kilogram.
Scientists have long believed that
contaminated water was reaching
the ocean, based in part on
continuing high levels of radioactive
cesium found in fish living at the
bottom of the sea. Scientists have
also noted a rise in strontium-90
and tritium levels in the past few
months. Strontium accumulates in
fish bones and remains longer than
cesium in fish and the humans that
eat them.
Hiroshi Kishi, chairman of the Japan
Fisheries Cooperatives, called on
Energy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi
Friday morning to tackle the
contamination issue as soon as
possible, and to release appropriate
information to international
community to avoid the further
negative groundless reputation over
Japan fishery products.
"This is a structurally difficult and
complex issue. We will not rely on
TEPCO, but the government will
come to the forefront in resolving
the issue," Motegi said.
Earlier this week, the Japanese
government announced that it
would spend 47 billion yen ($470
million) to build an underground
"ice wall" around the reactor and
turbine buildings and develop an
advanced water treatment system in
an attempt to contain the leaks and
limit the amount of contaminated
water.