Seafood going strong in China, despite tainted water fears

Seafood consumption in Dalian, Liaoning province, appears unaffected by Japan's discharge of treated wastewater, but concerns remain, industry insiders said.


Chefs make salmon sashimi at a Japanese restaurant in Dalian, Liaoning province. PHOTO: CHINA DAILY

August 30, 2023

DALIAN, LIAONING – At Rongsheng Market in the city’s Zhongshan district, a seafood stall owner nicknamed Dashuai skillfully helped customers choose sea snails, crabs, scallops and shrimp. He mentioned that sales in the past few days were normal.

“However, a friend of mine who operates a frozen shrimp stall in another community saw a nearly tenfold increase in sales over the weekend,” he said, “Some elderly residents lined up at his stall to stock up on frozen seafood.”

On Thursday, China suspended imports of all aquatic products originating from Japan, including edible aquatic animals, one hour after Japan officially started discharging nuclear-contaminated water from its damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.

“We might say that the elderly people’s behavior is a case of blindly following the herd. But considering the spread of the contaminated water, the long-term effects remain uncertain,” he said.

Located on the southern tip of the Liaodong Peninsula, Dalian faces the Bohai Sea and the Yellow Sea. It is an important source of seafood in northern China. Dalian seafood — sea cucumbers, abalone, urchins and oysters — is known throughout the country.

At a Japanese restaurant called Nekoya in Xigang district, the owner, Yuan Shuai, said that while the restaurant features Japanese cuisine, it has always used both local wild seafood ingredients and imported ones.

“Our salmon and tuna are from Northern Europe, Alaskan king crab from Russia and freshwater prawns from Canada. Some domestic aquaculture products such as horse mackerel, oysters and sea urchins, are also popular,” he said.

“But we can’t say that Japan’s discharge of nuclear-contaminated wastewater hasn’t had an influence. Some people mistakenly believe that seafood is not edible anymore, and in recent days, several customers have expressed their worries.”

Dalian’s local seafood is known for its high quality, and many Japanese restaurants have been using fresh local ingredients, according to Xiaohua Taba, a popular food blogger in Dalian.

“As for a few specialty ingredients unique to Japan, they are few and expensive, catering only to a niche market. We can say that at present local seafood consumption in Dalian seems to remain largely unaffected,” he said.

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