Tomioka open again, eight years after Fukushima disaster

Today, fishermen conduct test operations and radioactive testing three times a week over a period of five days, excluding Saturdays and Sundays and bad weather.

Bonnie Waycott

Their ultimate goal is the full revival of the fisheries industry through a management style operation that would help young people carry this forward in a thorough manner, create a richer fisheries industry and increase catches by at least 20% of what they were before the disaster.

According to Toru Takahashi, 99% of marine species can be caught but the radioactivity levels of catches are assiduously tested to ensure safety. Stringent testing regimes are in place that bans the sale of any seafood found to contain more than 50Bq, with time required to lift them.

The first trip from Tomioka Port to the fishing grounds. Image: Tomioka town

Having spent the past eight years working tirelessly to rebuild, Fukushima’s fishing industry is also confronting yet another menace – the increasing likelihood that radioactive water accumulated at the nuclear power plant will be dumped into the ocean. For Toru Takahashi, this is a huge concern. Although the water is treated, the system in place does not filter out tritium, a radioactive hydrogen isotope.

‘Politicians and scientists say that this water must be released but it’s easy for them to spit out words like that. Before they do anything, I would like them to carry out on-site investigations, conduct scientific analyses and also experiments that will determine the impact on the ecosystem and marine species,’ he said.

Toru Takahashi, head of an association of trawler vessel owners in Haragama, Fukushima Prefecture. Image: Trawler vessel owners' association

‘I also want them to take the time to find out to what extent tritium must be diluted so there is no negative impact on the ocean. Only when they have been fully understood by representatives and scientists in different countries, who are sharing information with the rest of the world, should they make a decision.’

He hopes that even if the water is dumped into the ocean, the government will fulfil its responsibility by continuing to investigate the sea around Fukushima and neighbouring prefectures thoroughly, before taking swift action once figures have been determined.

But, he says, there are some verifications of safety.

‘Apart from areas around the nuclear power plant, the level of contamination has decreased,’ he said.

‘The degree of danger has also declined considerably and there is no difference now between Fukushima and other prefectures. Air contamination is also said to be lower here than in areas of Kansai and further south of Japan.’

Despite this, and numerous PR activities, Toru Takahashi says that consumers, especially the younger generation, are moving away from fish, while families with small children avoid Fukushima produce.

‘The reality is that if our products and those from other prefectures are put on display at the same price, consumers will choose those from other prefectures,’ he said.

Rigorous testing is carried out daily to check radiation levels. Image: Tomioka town

Toru Takahashi, Masaru Ono and others throughout Fukushima have vowed to continue their fight. Despite the decontamination efforts and opening of all the prefecture’s ports, many challenges still need to be addressed, including rebuilding people’s trust. They hope that one day, people from outside Japan will visit Fukushima and see the situation for themselves.

‘Our fish are shipped following the most rigorous checks,’ Toru Takahashi said.
‘I really want to know why countries that criticise us don’t try to understand this. I’d like to ask such countries whether they would work as hard as us if something similar happened to them. My message to readers of this story is this – instead of believing what you read or see on screen, please visit us and determine things for yourself. Then tell people what you have discovered. Reporting that is always based on rumours leads to even more harmful rumours.’

‘The results of radiation checks on Fukushima seafood are being published,’ Masaru Ono said.

‘I would like readers to judge these calmly and objectively, and of course I would love them to try seafood from Fukushima.’