Is sushi safe?

Tsujiki Fresh Tuna Auction in Tokyo

Tsujiki Tuna Auction in Tokyo - photo by Derek Mawhinney

People are concerned about the safety of seafood from Japan. The fear is understandable. It’s also misplaced. Eating Japanese seafood now is a measure of support, just as eating Gulf shrimp in the US is a way of helping sustain that impacted industry.

Japan takes it’s seafood industry very seriosuly. And the government is taking no chances. According to Yukio Edano, the very visible spokesman for the government’s crisis management efforts, regulators were instructed to implement maximum monitoring of Japanese seafood.

Several types of radioactive materials have been found in the waters near the damaged nuclear power plant in Fukushima. But fishing is banned in nearby waters.

Radioactive material is diluted as it travels through the vast ocean waters, so it’s most dangerous right around the power plant itself. That means fish that live their whole lives around there, never straying far from shore, are the ones which will have elevated levels of radioactivity.

But deep sea fishes like tuna tend to be popular choices for sushi lovers. The tuna consumed in sushi bars is going to be safe however, because they range across huge swaths of ocean, often traveling hundreds of miles.

Marine experts have spent a lot of energy lately explaining why the seafood situation is different than produce. Vegetables from affected areas around Fukushima prefecture should be avoided. But fears about the safety of Japan’s seafood exports are largely just fear of the unknown.

Meanwhile, seafood prices at Tokyo area fish markets continue to drop. There is still some foreign demand for seafood from other parts of Japan but buyers seem to be shying away from anything from Eastern Japan.

The long term affects on their fisheries in Eastern Japan remains to be seen, but they are in very bad shape at the moment. Many of the great seafood operations in that area will not survive. Ironically, Japanese whaling looks like it will emerge unscathed.

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