Katsuo (shipjack tuna) is in season, and in a normal year the port of Onahama, Fukushima Prefecture should be bustling with activities, with fishing boats hauling katsuo they caught into the port, noisy auctioning by the wholesalers.
This year is anything but normal, and the amount of the haul at the Onahama port is zero. Zero.
Where are the fishing boats loaded with katsuo going? Other ports, so that the katsuo that they catch off the coast of Fukushima and all along the Pacific North can be sold as coming anywhere but from Fukushima.
(In other words, watch out, consumers.)
From Yomiuri Shinbun (7/7/2011):
The Onahama Port in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, the biggest port in Fukushima Prefecture and one of the best known port for hauling katsuo (shipjack tuna) in the Tohoku region, finds itself in difficult times.
It's the prime season for katsuo fishing right now, but the katsuo hauling at the port, which reopened three weeks ago for the first time since the March 11 tsunami, is zero. It's because fishing boats head for other ports in other prefectures, fearful that their catch will be considered "caught in Fukushima Prefecture", a big negative in the aftermath of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. The local fishery people lament, "katsuo all come from the same fishery...."
Katsuo fishing, which chases katsuo as the fish migrate north along the Pacific coast from spring to summer, started in earnest in May. Now it's in the prime season. However, at the wholesale fish market at the Onahama Port, all is quiet, and fish baskets remain empty.
"In a normal year, the place is chaotic with wholesalers and fish market personnel, bustling with activities," Mr. Satoshi Nakano, 35-year-old worker at the market, sighs.
According to Japan's Fisheries Agency, 2,420 tonnes of fresh katsuo were hauled at the port in 2009, No. 5 in the whole country. The local fishing co-op says 70% of the haul was from the out-of-Fukushima fish boats.
There have been anecdotal but credible "rumors" for about two months that there are unusual increases of unusual kind of fish in ports outside Fukushima - Tokyo's Tsukiji Port, and a port in Mie Prefecture for example. The rumors say the boats are catching fish off the coast of Fukushima and hauling them at a distant port, and the fish are being sold as "caught in the ocean near that port", which is perfectly legal.
And what about the remaining 30% of the fishing boats that are from Fukushima Prefecture? A group of fishing boats left the Onahama Port for katsuo fishing last month, but they've given up on hauling to the Onahama Port due to the "baseless rumor" of radiation contamination, according to Tokyo Shinbun.
The authorities seem to want to keep it "baseless rumor" by not testing. At this point, even if they start to test, no consumer will readily believe the official numbers.