Govt. to secure funds for fisheries industry after China halts seafood imports

Japan's economy minister says the government will secure budgetary funds to support the domestic fisheries industry, which has been hit by China's suspension of imports of Japanese seafood products.

Nishimura Yasutoshi spoke at a Lower House committee meeting on Friday about the suspension imposed by Beijing after Japan began releasing treated and diluted water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the sea.

Noting China's suspension could last for a long time, a ruling party lawmaker asked whether the government is considering stepping up financial support for the industry.

In reply, Nishimura said the government plans to organize promotional activities and help fisheries groups, which will buy and store seafood items that have been hit by falling demand.

The government has earmarked more than 680 million dollars in emergency aid to deal with reputational damage and other impacts from the water release.

An opposition lawmaker proposed that a third party join the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company in monitoring tritium levels in seawater following the water release to better prevent reputational damage.

Nishimura replied that the International Atomic Energy Agency has approved TEPCO's analyzing capability.
He said while the government will try to verify that the operator is effectively carrying out this task, it will also analyze samples separately and disclose the results. The minister added the IAEA will continue reviewing the monitoring activities.

Also at the Diet session, fisheries minister Nomura Tetsuro once again apologized for calling treated and diluted water "contaminated," the term used by China in criticizing Japan for the issue.

Nomura said he deeply regrets the mistake, which has upset the people of Fukushima and fisheries workers across Japan.

He also said he apologized to Sakamoto Masanobu, chief of the National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations.

Sakamoto, who attended the session as an unsworn witness, said China's action is hurting scallop fishers and other people across Japan.

He also said containing the fallout is a political matter, so the government should take the heat by addressing the issue and easing concerns.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant suffered a triple meltdown in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Water used to cool molten fuel has been mixing with rain and groundwater.

The accumulated water is treated to remove most radioactive substances, but still contains tritium. Before releasing the treated water into the sea, TEPCO dilutes it to reduce tritium levels to about one-seventh of the World Health Organization's guidelines for drinking water.