China, South Korea see sharp decline in imports of Japanese seafood
Published: Sep 19, 2023 10:39 PM
Sashimi of salmon, scallops and octopus Photo: from IC

Sashimi of salmon, scallops and octopus Photo: from IC

Imports of Japanese aquatic products by China and South Korea plunged in August as a result of Japan's dumping of nuclear-contaminated wastewater, according to customs data. 

The decline will intensify and lead to a collapse in Japan's fishing industry, experts said.

China's seafood imports from Japan in August dived 67.6 percent from a year earlier to 149.02 million yuan ($20.44 million), after a fall of 28.5 percent in July, Kyodo News reported, citing data from Chinese customs released on Monday.

China banned imports of all seafood from Japan starting from August 24, when Japan started dumping nuclear-contaminated wastewater from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said on September 5 that the international community is watching closely what risks Japan's moves have brought to the marine environment and public safety, and have taken preventive measures accordingly. 

"The measures we've adopted are fully legitimate, reasonable and necessary," Mao said.

Another of Japan's neighbors -- South Korea -- also reduced imports of seafood from Japan for the same reason. In August, imports of seafood from Japan declined for a fifth consecutive month in both value and volume terms, Yonhap News Agency reported.

According to data released by South Korean customs on Monday, South Korea imported seafood worth $7.81 million from Japan in August, down 34.8 percent year-on-year, while volume fell 24.9 percent to 1,622 tons.

Officials from South Korea's Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said the government will maintain a ban on imports of aquatic products from eight prefectures in Japan, including Fukushima, and maintain a nuclear radiation detection system to ensure public safety.

Japan's water dumping opened a Pandora's Box and the damage to Japan's fishery industry will worsen, Lü Xiang, research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

China and South Korea are important export destinations for Japanese seafood. The bans imposed by both countries to protect their citizens will have a significant impact on Japanese seafood exports, he said.

In 2022, Japan's seafood exports reached $1.97 billion, with China and South Korea accounting for about 45 percent of the total. The bans that were imposed by both countries will affect about $870 million of business, Jiefang Daily reported.

If Japan continues dumping nuclear-contaminated wastewater, it will face more international condemnation and this could potentially devastate Japan's seafood export market, Lü said.

The Chinese government has repeatedly urged Japan to stop the water discharges.

The Japanese government should respond fully to the international community's major concerns on the discharge of nuclear-contaminated water from Fukushima, shoulder its moral responsibilities and obligations under international law, and stop discharging the water, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a proposal of China on the Reform and Development of Global Governance on Wednesday.

The Japanese government needs to show sincerity and have full communication with neighboring countries, accept strict international oversight, and ensure that the contaminated water is disposed of in a science-based, safe and transparent manner, according to the proposal.