Fukushima fishery industry eyes next April for full fishing resumption

The Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations has set next April as a target for the resumption of full commercial fishing operations. At a meeting in Iwaki city on Sept. 29, the heads of member associations unanimously approved the federation's proposal to push ahead with discussions on the details of resuming operations. It was the first time for the local fishery industry to have a specific target set for restarting operations in full swing since the 2011 earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Holdings Inc.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The disaster has left offshore commercial fisheries suspended except for recent test operations. But the federation's action, taken in the landmark 10th year since the disaster, is expected to spur moves toward fishery reconstruction. Standing in the way of full recovery, however, is the issue of how to dispose of swelling wastewater containing radioactive tritium at the crippled coastal plant. It may affect industry arguments on full fishery resumption. Fish catches in test operations have been increasing, and a shipment ban on common skate was lifted on Feb. 25, permitting the shipment of all species of fish hauled off Fukushima. These developments prompted the federation to fix the target for full resumption. The group is set to specify the terms of commercial operations sometime after the turn of the year, including the sea areas covered, species caught, and the date of resumption. Another issue to be resolved is the expansion of marketing channels for fish caught. In this connection, the federation will seek to establish ways of cooperation with brokers and other parties concerned. In the current test operations, some restrictions are imposed, including on the number of days when fishing boats can operate and on species to be caught. The federation will consider imposing no limits, enabling "free operations" as before the nuclear accident. But it is expected to take time before full operations are launched in sea areas near the plant. The industry group is set to begin commercial fisheries in stages, starting in offshore areas where operations are possible. "We have been able to come thus far at long last," federation head Tetsu Nozaki told reporters after the meeting. "We would like to hold talks steadily among fishery operators and put full operations into practice." An official of the prefectural government's fisheries section said the local industry's resuscitation is going to make progress. “We will continue to support fishery operators,” the official said, indicating that the local government will improve assistance measures such as securing retail store shelves for Fukushima fish and the expansion of distribution channels. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has expressed readiness to fix the treatment of wastewater at the plant as soon as possible. The federation approved a special resolution at its general meeting in June calling for an "absolute objection" to the release of treated water into the ocean. Prefectural fishermen have voiced concern that the local fishery industry could be dealt a severe blow depending on the method of wastewater disposal adopted. ■Main developments of test operations - March 15, 2011: Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations decides to refrain from coastal fishing - April 7, 2011: Emergency environmental radiation monitoring begins for seafood - June 22, 2012: Gov't instructs shipment curbs for 36 species of fish; shipment ban on young sand lance lifted; first haul from test fishing - June 25, 2012: First shipment of fish caught in test operations - Aug. 28, 2013: Test fishing suspended & postponed due to outflow of polluted water from Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant - Sept. 24, 2013: Resumption of test fishing decided; operations suspended voluntarily in sea area within 20-km radius of plant - Feb.28, 2017: Restricted fishing area reduced to 10-km radius of plant - Feb. 25, 2020: Gov't lifts shipment ban on common skate, enabling shipment of all fish species (Translated by Kyodo News)