The Japanese seafood industry is vital to the country’s economy and global trade, contributing to domestic consumption and exports. As a result, the disruption of its supply chain can cause significant economic damage.
This is especially true for companies that rely on China-bound exports, which account for more than half of sales for 727 Japanese seafood firms surveyed by market research firm Teikoku Databank. They include fishermen and companies involved in processing and selling seafood, such as restaurants. If Japan’s food exports to China continue to decline, the country will be in danger of losing its status as a global leader in fisheries and could face an uncertain future.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Monday the government would allocate an additional 20.7 billion yen ($141.41 million) to support the fisheries industry. The prime minister said that the funds will help the industry develop new markets and keep excess fish frozen until demand recovers. He added that the government is also considering taking the matter to the World Trade Organization if needed.
Kishida visited Tokyo’s Toyosu fish market to meet with representatives from the country’s fisheries sector, who told him that China’s total import ban on Japanese aquatic products following the start of Japan’s release of treated radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant last month had taken a severe toll on their businesses. He promised to take steps to increase domestic seafood consumption, expand the number of overseas destinations for Japanese seafood, and find ways to replace exports to China.
The prime minister urged Chinese officials to lift the ban “patiently and resolutely, based on scientific evidence.” The government has been working to reassure consumers that the filtered water being released is safe. It has launched campaigns where officials showcase themselves eating seafood from Fukushima prefecture and other areas. Tokyo has urged local governments to promote the region as an attractive tourist destination.
However, the growing dissatisfaction with Japan’s handling of the issue has damaged the country’s reputation among international buyers. Japan must address the issue transparently and proactively and rebuild trust by ensuring robust monitoring and testing procedures.
The government also aims to increase the number of overseas offices that handle seafood inquiries and provide customer support in English to boost its efforts to communicate with foreign customers. It has set up a new website and sent officials to trade shows in the United States and South Korea.
Japan’s fisheries industry is critical to the country’s culture, economy, and global trade. It is also a symbol of the nation’s culinary tradition, a cuisine that has gained a worldwide reputation for its exquisite balance and excellence. The seafood industry is a livelihood for coastal communities and a national treasure contributing to global food safety and security. The international community needs to know that the Japanese fisheries industry will continue to work safely and responsibly.