Polluted fish, shellfish from waters off Fukushima sag sharply

17 January 2016

Tests conducted by the Fukushima prefectural government in 2015 to check radioactive cesium content in fish and shellfish caught in Pacific waters off the northeastern Japanese prefecture show that only four out of 8,577 samples were found to exceed the maximum allowable standard of 100 becquerels per kilogram under the Food Sanitation Act, down sharply from 75 in 2014. It was the first time since such annual tests began in 2011 that the number of polluted samples fell to a single-digit figure.

The four samples represent only 0.046% of the total, which comprised about 180 species of fish and shellfish. Contaminated samples have been on the decline since April 2011, when checkups on radioactive cesium content were launched in the wake of the March 11 nuclear accident that year at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. Given the decline in polluted fish and shellfish, the local government and fishing industry are poised to consider increasing the number of species and the sea area covered in test fishing operations.

The four samples found to contain radioactive cesium in excess of the standard last year were three white rockfish caught off Tomioka town and one stone flounder hauled off Iwaki city. The number of samples exceeding the standard was 785 or 39.8% of the 1,972 checked in 2011, 921 or 16.5% of 5,580 in 2012, 280 or 3.7% of 7,641 in 2013 and 75 or 0.9% of 8,722 in 2014.

The prefecture attributes the declining number of contaminated samples to several factors, including the relatively short radioactive half life of about two years for cesium-134, progress in generational changes of fish and shellfish, and a decline in the amount of radioactive substances released from the Fukushima nuclear plant where restoration work has made headway.

(Translated by Kyodo News)