22 February 2024

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Hong Kong

Hong Kong will ban some Japanese seafood due to a dispute over radioactive water

Hong Kong’s governor said the city would “immediately activate” import bans on Japanese seafood, despite Japan’s decision to dump treated radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear reactor into the sea. More than a million tons of water will be released from the plant by Japan. Tokyo has argued that the water is safe and that the plant, which was destroyed by a tsunami in 2011, is largely used to cool damaged reactors.

Hong Kong announced that its embargo would go into effect on August 24, the day Japan begins its release. The UN nuclear inspector has approved the plan, but dumping the water has been met with criticism from countries such China, who are concerned about food safety.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee called the release “irresponsible” and said it posed “impossible risks to food safety as well as irreparable pollution and destruction of the marine environment,” adding that he had instructed environment secretary Tse Chin-wan and relevant departments to immediately activate import controls to protect food safety and public health.

“At this point, there is no timetable for how long the ban will last,” Tse Chin-wan said. He explained that the choice would be based on data and information received from Japan following the discharge.

Macau will similarly impose the embargo beginning Thursday, covering the same ten Japanese regions.

What does the Hong Kong import ban mean?

In July, Hong Kong announced that the restriction would apply to imported aquatic items from Tokyo, Fukushima, Chiba, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma, Miyagi, Niigata, Nagano, and Saitama, but that exports from 13 other Japanese regions would be permitted. The regulation applies to live, frozen, refrigerated, and dried aquatic items, as well as sea salt and seaweed.

What will be the impact of the ban?

After China, Hong Kong is Japan’s second largest market for agricultural and fishery exports. Many restaurants will face significant challenges, with some planning to add extra meat to their menus in order to offset losses of up to 40%.