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Fukushima’s fishermen form a serious obstacle to TEPCO’s plans to release water into the Pacific

Fishing culture has deep historical roots in Japan. The country imports more seafood than any other 

If you run roughshod over the fishermen” it will backfire when Abe asks the public for support of his economic agenda and nuclear restarts,”

flag-japanFukushima Fishermen Ruined by Tepco Now Key in Radiation Fight, Bloomberg,  By Yuriy Humber, Chisaki Watanabe & Masumi Suga – Aug 29, 2013  ”……… Japan’s government promised “to take drastic measures to the maximum extent possible” to contain the radiated water leaks. That has so far amounted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the ruling Liberal Democrats instructing Tepco to win over the fishermen before proceeding.

Tepco, Optics

“Despite its support for nuclear power, the Cabinet and LDP politicians know that the public dislikes atomic power and holds Tepco in contempt,” Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University, said by e-mail. “They realise that the ‘optics’ of going over the objections of the fishermen would be very bad.”

Worse, leaks of radiated water into the ocean in recent weeks has set back efforts by Fukushima fishermen to convince consumers their product is safe, said Shoichi Abe, a member of a fisheries cooperative in Soma city in Fukushima.

“We concluded that we won’t be able to win the understanding of customers,” Abe said, adding that from next month Soma’s fishermen will stop trawling altogether.

For its part, Tepco said it has tried to explained to representatives of fisheries associations that the water in the bypass system wouldn’t touch radiated areas and therefore can be safely pumped into the sea. Tepco has held at least four meetings with the various cooperatives in Fukushima.

Fishing Culture

“The only thing we can do now is to explain this carefully,” Tepco President Naomi Hirose said in a briefing this week. “We are getting more understanding that the risk gets higher unless we solve the underground water issue.

Fishing culture has deep historical roots in Japan. The country imports more seafood than any other and eats 6 percent of the world’s fish harvest with only 2 percent of the global population, United Nations data show……

According to Japanese negotiation norms, even with the legal right to pursue a vital course of action, Tepco can’t act without ‘‘seeking acceptance of the other party,” said Daniel Aldrich, an associate professor of political science at Purdue University who focuses on Japan and disaster recovery.

“Even with the urgency of the situation, this norm dominates,” Aldrich said by e-mail.

Abe and his Cabinet aren’t able to make an executive decision on turning the bypass on, said Andrew DeWit, a professor of political economy and public finance at Rikkyo University in Tokyo.

“They’re stuck because of a legacy of obfuscation, incompetence, mishaps, and the incredible complexity of this trauma that’s 200 kilometers from Tokyo,” he said. “If you want to hand the opposition a perfect gift, you say: ‘Ok, we’re going to pump radioactive water into the sea and we are going to ignore what the fishermen have to say.’”


Abe’s options are complicated by his plans to reinvigorate the economy, which relies on restarting some of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors. All but two sit idle due to public safety concerns since the Fukushima disaster.

The prime minister’s economic revival plan also includes a push for Japan to join a trade pact with Pacific nations, which may damage domestic agriculture and the nation’s fisheries

Fishermen form a key interest group in the debate over Japan’s trade talks, DeWit said.

“If you run roughshod over the fishermen” it will backfire when Abe asks the public for support of his economic agenda and nuclear restarts, he said .

August 30, 2013 - Posted by | Japan, politics

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