after the first discharges of water from the Fukushima power plant, fishermen and “influencers” of the Yellow Sea are worried

The water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant which has begun to be released into the Pacific is still very far from China’s coasts, but Chinese consumers have already anticipated this. Seafood sales are in free fall and Chinese fishermen are very worried.

Like every evening at nightfall, a real show begins in the large fishing port of Lianyungang, in the east of China. Along the entire length of the quay, dozens of seafood vendors are set up with spotlights.

>> The waters of Fukushima are poisoning relations between Japan and China and hiding more political tensions

Sitting in front of their cell phone cameras, these “influencers of the sea”as they are called in China, broadcast live on the Internet and speak to their virtual customers across the country. “Watch, buy, click the link and thank you for your support”says one of the saleswomen with acting talents, showing a huge shrimp on the screen.

And this evening, the young woman places great emphasis on the quality of her products. Because, despite the colorful atmosphere that reigns here, the climate is gloomy. Since Japan began discharging water from the Fukushima power plant on August 24, Chinese consumers, normally very fond of seafood, have become wary.

They fear contamination of shrimp and other crabs, including those caught in China, and sales have already started to decline, even though the waters are still thousands of kilometers from the Chinese coast. “It’s almost the moon festival, specifies the young woman. Normally, everything the world should have bought seafood as gifts and our products should have sold well, but people are afraid to eat them. The last two days, sales have not been good.”

“For us, it’s like a precipice, the feeling of falling from the sky to the ground. Before, we had 300 or 400 orders a day. Today, there are only a few dozen. We even had to stop online sales for two days, and it’s the same situation for all our colleagues.”

A sea influencer

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“Today, over the 4 hours of online sales that I just did, there were no more than 40 to 50 buyers who followed our live show, compared to 500 before. People are afraid to eat seafood. Online shoppers ask us live if seafood is contaminated and if it is still safesays this “sea influencer”. They worry about a lot of things, asking us why we continue to sell if the seafood is contaminated.”

So, the sellers are obliged to be pedagogical. “I explain to them that it is still safe and that there is still a little time before the waters reach China.” Concern is growing in the sector, and this young woman confides “consider changing careers, selling beef and lamb or something else. But, we were born here, and we don’t really know how to sell anything other than seafood.”

A real time trial

The Chinese authorities have made this issue of Fukushima waters a political affair, openly criticizing Tokyo. The country has even suspended its imports of seafood products from Japan. A particularly alarmist speech taken up by this researcher from Beijing Normal University: “Nuclear contaminated water can be transported into marine ecosystems and, through the food chain, it can enter the human body after consumption of seafood. There are therefore potential impacts on marine ecosystems and also on human health. There is no real international monitoring. It is therefore very important to set up teams capable of carrying out independent and effective long-term controls on these discharges of contaminated water.”

Sitting in front of their cell phone cameras, these "sea ​​influencers", as they are called in China, broadcast live on the Internet and speak to their virtual customers across the country.  (SEBASTIEN BERRIOT / RADIOFRANCE)

Based on the results obtained during previous inspections, we can predict that the contaminated water just released from the Fukushima plant will reach Chinese waters in one and a half to two years at the earliest.”, continues the expert. Because the question of time is on everyone’s mind. For the moment, the water discharged from Fukushima is still far from having reached the Chinese part of the Yellow Sea. In Lianyungang, no one knows how long it will take. Everyone has their own hypothesis, explains this woman preparing the fishing nets: “Maybe it will be after the Chinese New Year. I think the government will then find a solution and tell us how to fish, because people don’t know what to do.” It is therefore a real race against time which is launched. The objective? Fish as much as possible, before the arrival of potentially contaminated Japanese waters. “You can always freeze seafood and store it, but how much?”asks a fisherman, visibly worried.

“If the contaminated waters come here, where will we fish?”

The state is monitoring the situation, but if the contaminated water comes here, where will we fish?”asks this same fisherman. “In our coastal towns, if we cannot fish, life is paralyzed. Before, there was the epidemic. We could not go out to sea to work. Now, it is contaminated waters. The impact is considerable for us”he emphasizes.

Especially since all this comes in an already difficult context for the fishing sector in China. “The price of fish is falling”explains another fisherman, employed on a trawler specializing in crab. “Fewer people are eating seafood.”

“I’ve been in this business for over 30 years. If I don’t fish anymore, I won’t have a job when the contaminated waters arrive.”

A Chinese fisherman from the Yellow Sea

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At the moment the weather is bad, but the trawlers will return to work in a few days. From now on, they only work near the Chinese coast to avoid as much as possible approaching the waters arriving from Japan.

source site-29