Japan’s attempts to bolster its public image on the eve of Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics took another blow Friday, as South Korea banned imports of fish from a long stretch of the country’s northeast coast. The decision isn’t based on any evidence that the fish are contaminated or dangerous to eat, but rather what a spokesperson identified as “sharply increased” public concern — undoubtedly fueled by reports of hundreds of tons of radiation pouring daily from the plant into the Pacific Ocean.
A Japanese official told reporters in Tokyo that its seafood is subject to “stringent” international controls and poses no risk to consumers. According to the Washington Post:
The South Korean import ban marks a major expansion of existing restrictions, which have prevented 49 species of fish from Fukushima from entering the Korean market. A handful of other species from the broader region — mostly bottom-feeders — were also banned.
Now, all fish from nearly 600 miles of coastline are banned, “regardless of whether they are contaminated or not,” the Oceans and Fisheries Ministry said. The ban includes areas as far south as Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo.
The ban may be excessively cautious, but also reflects a growing lack of trust in Japan’s ability to contain its nuclear crisis. While the Japanese government recently took over for the plant’s operator, pledging $470 million to the effort, South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries blamed the country for the lack of clear information emerging from the disaster site.