Fish radiation limits set same as vegetables'

The government has decided to set consumption limits for radioactive iodine in fishery products at 2,000 becquerels per kilogram--the same regulatory value set for vegetables.

The hasty decision was made in response to Monday's announcement by an Ibaraki Prefecture fishery cooperative that radioactive iodine had been detected in kounago (young sand launce) caught in waters off the prefecture. The small eellike fish was found to contain 4,080 becquerels of iodine per kilogram.

Prior to the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, no radioactive iodine limits had been set for fishery products.

On Tuesday, local fishermen decided to voluntarily stop fishing for sand launce. With this in mind, the government said it would not impose shipment restrictions on the fish but would continue to monitor radioactive iodine levels in the sea.

Previously, the government's Nuclear Safety Commission had said since the half-life of radioactive iodine is short, radiation in fishery products would be considerably reduced by the time they are consumed. Limits for radioactive cesium, which has a long half-life, had already been set at 500 becquerels per kilogram.

Since radioactive iodine was only found in one sample, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said at a press conference that, "Instead of immediately imposing restrictions, we will conduct strict monitoring to obtain information."

Edano said any necessary restrictions would be imposed by first identifying the sea areas where the polluted fish were caught and then deciding what shipment restrictions should be made.

After the government's decision was announced, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry notified prefectural governments that the temporary limit for radioactive iodine in fish was 2,000 becquerels per kilogram under the Food Sanitation Law.

Considering the need to put the regulation into practice as soon as possible, the ministry decided it would wait to get approval from other government entities, which is normally obtained beforehand. Related entities include the Cabinet Office's Food Safety Commission and the ministry's Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council.

Meanwhile, the Fisheries Agency decided Tuesday to conduct its own tests by catching and measuring radiation levels in fish every day in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture, and every two days in Choshi, Chiba Prefecture. Because sand launce swim just below the surface, the agency will check other shallow-swimming species such as mackerel and horse mackerel.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, which has been checking levels of radioactive substances in seawater, on Tuesday expanded its observation points by adding Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, to its 10 usual spots. The ministry also said it would use five observation buoys to monitor sea current direction and speed.

-The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network