Three weeks after an earthquake and tsunami pulverized its coast, and as radioactive material leaks from a stricken power plant into the surrounding sea, Japan grapples with placing safety standards on its seafood.
The country imposed its first radiation safety standards for fish, after catches found in seawater last Friday halfway between the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant and Tokyo registered high levels of radioactive iodine 131, the New York Times reported .
The standards called for half the amount of radiation found in the catch for fish to be considered safe.
This type of iodine has a short half-life, which means the levels found in fish are greatly reduced after eight days, however concerns for humans who eat the fish continue to rise.
Fishermen who worked near the plant district, many of whom now find themselves homeless and without boats, now fear for their livelihoods.
“Even if the government says the fish is safe, people won’t want to buy seafood from Fukushima,” fisherman Ichiro Yamagata told the Associated Press. “We probably can’t fish there for several years.”
India announced Tuesday that it would halt imports from Japan, which sent the world $2.3 billion worth of seafood last year.
In the U.S., no such ban exists, but a growing unease with Japanese fish imports — namely, sushi — could become palpable if radiation levels rise. “So you’re not going to die from eating it right away, but we’re getting to levels where I would think twice about eating it, “Nicholas Fisher, a professor of marine science at State University in New York told the New York Times.
At Washington’s Satay Club restaurant, owner Techkin Chan isn’t concerned, saying that many of the restaurant’s ingredients come from countries other than Japan. Sushi staples, including tuna, salmon and eel,come imported from China and Canada, Chan said. He added that the volume of orders of products from Japan — tamago and scallops — have remained the same as before the earthquake.