Hong Kong poised to ban Japanese seafood over treated nuclear wastewater

Hong Kong, one of the world's biggest buyers of Japanese fish, says it will ban seafood imports from 10 prefectures in the country if Tokyo presses ahead with its plan to release treated radioactive water from Fukushima into the sea.

Hong Kong poised to ban Japanese seafood over treated nuclear wastewater

Hong Kong CNN

Hong Kong, which is one of the biggest importers of Japanese seafood in the world, has announced that it will ban the import of seafood from 10 prefectures if Tokyo continues with its plan to discharge radioactive water treated at Fukushima directly into the ocean.

Tse Chun-wan is the city's environment and ecology secretary. He said that the ban will include 'live products, those that are frozen, refrigerated, dried, or preserved in any other way', as well as salt, seaweed, and all other preserved items.

Hong Kong has over 2,000 Japanese restaurants.

According to the Japanese government, Hong Kong will buy 75.5 billion yen (536 million dollars) of fisheries from Japan by 2022. This makes it Japan's 2nd largest market for exports.

This move comes just a few days after Beijing banned the export of Japanese seafood to mainland China due to health and safety concerns.

South Korea is among the neighbors of Japan who have expressed concern about the safety and quality of the food it exports, despite Tokyo's assurances that the release of treated radioactive waste will only have a minimal impact.

Tse said at a Wednesday news briefing that if they make mistakes, the highly radioactive water will have a huge impact on food safety when it enters the ecosphere.

IAEA insists that the planned release of contaminated water is safe and meets international standards. It also matches what nuclear power plants around the world do, including in the United States. The treated water will be diluted to a high degree and slowly released into the Pacific Ocean.

This is a necessary step to decommission Fukushima's nuclear plant which melted in 2011 after a devastating earthquake. The government said that the release of wastewater will start this summer. However, it did not specify a specific date.

Seafood Ban

Hong Kong's government spokesperson said officials, after studying the IAEA's report, had concluded that there was 'no assurance' that the purification system could operate continuously and efficiently on a long-term basis nor that Japan's plans would not pose risks to marine ecology and food safety.

He said that the 10 prefectures affected by a ban on seafood are Tokyo, Fukushima and Chiba.

Hong Kong has maintained its existing restrictions on meat, milk and fruit from Fukushima as well as four other prefectures.

Tse has not stated how long a potential ban may last.

He said, "Time will tell."

Tse, along with other Hong Kong officials, had met the Japanese consul in the city just before the ban was announced.

The Japanese side stated that it had "strongly requested" that no further regulatory measures be taken. It urged Hong Kong officials respond based on "scientific facts."

In recent weeks, the likely impending release of treated radioactive wastewater prompted South Korean consumers to stockpile salt and seafood.

In early April, IAEA Chief Rafael Grossi made a visit to Japan. He presented the UN's nuclear watchdog’s final report Fumio Kishhida.

Grossi stated in the report that discharging treated seawater into the ocean would have a "negligible impact radiological on people and the environmental."

A large crowd of people gathered outside a sushi bar in Hong Kong’s busy shopping district, Causeway Bay.

Sandy Yu, a diner from Hong Kong, said that she spent up to HK$3,000 (US$385) on sushi and sashimi per month and feared that the ban would increase prices. She said that if the price increase is between 20% and 30%, she could still afford her Japanese meals.

Timothy Lo, another diner, also said that he was willing to travel to Japan in order to satisfy his craving for seafood. He said, 'The border has opened and the yen are cheap.'