Fish shipment restrictions lifted on "hirame" flounder off Fukushima

10 June 2016

The central government's Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters lifted shipment restrictions on "hirame" (flounder), a type of fish caught in coastal waters off Fukushima Prefecture, on June 9 for the first time in about four years. Before the restrictions were put into force following the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant, the flatfish fetched some 700 million yen on average in annual gross sales, establishing itself as a leading "Joban brand" of fish (Joban refers to most parts of Ibaraki Prefecture and the eastern area on the Pacific coast of Fukushima Prefecture).

Local fishing industry officials are preparing to launch test flounder-catching operations in an effort to restore the Joban brand. The shipment restrictions were imposed on June 22, 2012, as radioactive cesium content in flounder samples exceeded the maximum allowable limit of 100 becquerels per kilogram under the Food Sanitation Act in a monitoring survey by the prefectural government conducted on flounder caught off Fukushima.

In preparation for elimination of the restrictions, the prefecture surveyed radiocesium content in a total of 1,078 samples of the fish species between March 2014 and May 2016. The results of the survey showed local flounder satisfied central government conditions for removing the restrictions. The conditions included a weekly check on radiocesium content conducted in multiple places for not less than a month, a constant content level below the legal standard, and a mandatory survey in places where the limit was exceeded in the past.

An average content level per kilogram was 9.7 becquerels and no sample topped the limit. Based on the results, the prefectural government applied to the government nuclear emergency task force for removal of the shipment restrictions on June 9. The application was approved, effective the same day.

(Translated by Kyodo News)