Chinese customs authorities announced on Thursday an immediate ban on imports of all seafood from Japan as Tokyo begins a contentious release of treated radioactive wastewater from the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.
China is Japan’s biggest importer of fish, having purchased $496 million worth in 2022. It has also imported $370 million worth of crustaceans and mollusks – such as crabs and scallops – last year, data tracked by the Japanese statistics office shows.
Apart from Japan, China also purchases seafood from other countries including Ecuador, Russia, and Canada.
China had previously banned food imports from ten Japanese prefectures around the Fukushima plant, while earlier this week Hong Kong announced a ban on seafood imports from those same prefectures.
Earlier this week, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced plans to discharge around 1.3 million metric tons of treated wastewater, equivalent in volume to about 500 Olympic-size swimming pools, from Fukushima.
The Japanese authorities scheduled the discharge of the treated water into the Pacific Ocean for 1pm Tokyo time on Thursday, according to state-owned electricity firm TEPCO, adding that the weather and sea conditions were suitable.
Beijing has blasted the plan as “extremely selfish and irresponsible.” The Chinese customs agency said the suspension of imports was intended to prevent radioactive contamination risks.
The Fukushima nuclear power plant experienced a catastrophic meltdown after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent devastating tsunami in 2011. It was the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl accident.
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