China halted imports of Nishikikoi carp from Japan amid the Fukushima row

China has halted imports of Nishikikoi, an ornamental carp from Japan, sources familiar with the bilateral relationship said on Thursday, possibly part of Beijing’s pressure against Japan over the release of treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Beijing has not renewed a permit at a designated quarantine facility in Niigata Prefecture needed to export Japan’s Nishikikoi to China after it expired at the end of October, the sources said. Niigata is the birthplace of Nishikikoi breeding.

Nishikikoi ornamental carp at the Mariho Aquarium in the western Japanese city of Hiroshima. (Kyoto)

Bilateral relations have continued to fray over the release of wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which began in late August and prompted China to impose a blanket ban on seafood imports from Japan.

Nishikikoi have become popular overseas as pets in recent years. Japanese fish exports are expected to reach 6.3 billion yen ($41.7 million) in 2022, more than double the level of a decade ago.

China was the largest importer of colorful carp last year, accounting for 19 percent of total exports from Japan, according to Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Tokyo has inquired through diplomatic channels about the suspension of China’s nishikigoi imports, but Beijing has yet to respond, the sources said.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a press conference on Thursday that Japan would „continue to urge the Chinese authorities” to quickly complete the necessary procedures for resuming Nishikikoi trade.

Matsuno said Japan had „early” submitted materials to China to renew the permit for the quarantine facility, insisting Tokyo had followed the correct procedures.

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As China is an important market, the All Japan Nishikikoi Promotion Association said it hoped fish exports to the neighboring country would stabilize soon.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin protested Beijing’s maritime discharge at a press conference Thursday, saying China had not officially announced a halt to nishikigoi imports from Japan.

China has strongly opposed the discharge of sewage into the Pacific Ocean, labeling it „nuclearly contaminated”.

Japan’s seafood exports fell 90.8 percent from a year earlier to 800 million yen in September after Beijing began a blanket import ban. Japanese government data showed earlier in the week that non-food products such as pearls, coral and carp were among the products shipped this month.

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