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Fukushima Markets Get First Local Seafood Since Nuclear Meltdown

Seafood markets in Fukushima, Japan, are being stocked with locally caught products again, as officials seek to reintroduce local fare in the area that was hit by an earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear meltdown in March of 2011.

The AP reports on the details:

"Octopus and whelk, a kind of marine snail, were chosen for the initial shipments because testing for radioactive cesium consistently measured no detectable amounts, according to the Fukushima Prefectural (state) fishing cooperative. They were caught Friday and boiled so they last longer while being tested for radiation before they could be sold Monday."

The seafood goes on sale in the same month that Japan lifted its moratorium on nuclear power. Officials approved the restart of two nuclear power plant reactors in Fukui prefecture, which lies in the country's western region.

The fishing industry around Fukushima's coastline was severely crippled by the triple catastrophes that befell the eastern prefecture last year. And in May, scientists said they detected radioactivity in Pacific-caught tuna that was traced to Fukushima.

But, as NPR's Richard Harris reported, that story may have been overblown:

"Yes, radiation in seafood seems scary," he wrote for The Salt. "But here's the catch (if you pardon the expression). Tuna, like every other food on the planet, already contains naturally occurring radiation. It has potassium-40 and polonium-210. It always has and it always will. In addition, seafood in general contains a trace of cesium-137 left over from nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 1960s."

Still, it might be a while before local fish like tuna, flounder and sea bass are back on the shelves. Officials say that crabs might be the next to return to markets. And some fans of northeastern Japan's seafood are ready to eat it up.

"I was determined to buy (the seafood) today," Mitsuru Tokura, 63, told the Japan Times. "We must help the local industry. I will eat them as sashimi." Tokura reportedly bought two containers of octopus.

Seeking to lure customers back, the seafood was available at a 40 percent discount at one store.

"I was filled with both uncertainty and hope today, but I was so happy when I found out the local supermarket had sold out by 3 p.m.," Hirofumi Konno, an official at the fishing cooperative in Fukushima's Soma city, told the AP.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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