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Hong Kong details import ban on some Japanese seafood due to release in Fukushima

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong has set up a special government team to monitor and review an import ban on certain Japanese seafood due to the impending release of treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea.

Hong Kong authorities will strengthen surveillance of seafood imports from Japan and publish the results of daily radiation samples for the public to see, said Vivian Lau, the city’s permanent secretary of Environment and Ecology.

Although approved by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, Japan’s plan to dump the water has met with opposition at home and abroad, including from China, over food safety concerns. Hong Kong’s leader on Tuesday said he strongly opposed Japan’s discharge of water into the sea, while China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called the move “extremely selfish” and that Beijing would file a formal complaint. submitted to the Japanese government.

On Thursday, Japan will begin releasing more than a million tons of water from the power station north of Tokyo, stressing that it is safe to do so. The plant was destroyed in a tsunami in 2011, and the water has largely been used to cool down damaged reactors.

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The import ban for Hong Kong will also take effect from Thursday. It covers imported aquatic products from the Japanese regions of Tokyo, Fukushima, Chiba, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma, Miyagi, Niigata, Nagano and Saitama.

The government said there was no timetable on how long the ban would last and that a decision would depend on data and information from Japan after the discharge.

Seafood imports from thirteen other Japanese regions are still allowed.

The measure covers live, frozen, chilled and dried aquatic products, sea salt and seaweed.

Hong Kong is Japan’s second largest market after mainland China for agricultural and fishing exports. It imported 75.5 billion yen ($519.54 million) worth of seafood from Japan last year, according to Japanese data.

Some fishmongers in Hong Kong, such as 57-year-old fish shop owner Robert Ho, said the ban was likely to help their sales of local fish.

“Because there is no Japanese fish on the market, our local fish has the upper hand… should we still eat Japanese fish when we have this big, locally caught fish?”

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($1 = 145.3200 yen)

(Reporting by Farah Master, Twinnie Siu and Joyce Zhou; editing by Kim Coghill)

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