International news

Mass Fish Mortalities in Hokkaido and Nakiri

Japan has recently faced an environmental puzzle with hundreds of tonnes of fish, predominantly sardines and mackerel, washing ashore. In Hokkaido, an estimated 1,200 tonnes formed a silver blanket over a kilometre long near the fishing port of Hakodate. Similarly, Nakiri, located far south, witnessed 30 to 40 tonnes of Japanese scaled sardines, or sappa, stranded. Local fishers, concerned about the potential impact on the marine ecosystem, hurried to remove the fish.


Possible Causes: Predation, Temperature Shock, or Fukushima?

The phenomenon's cause remains elusive. Some experts suggest that the migratory fish were chased to exhaustion by predators like amberjack. Others point to sudden temperature drops shocking the fish. However, the release of treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has also been speculated as a cause, particularly in international media. This speculation arises despite the International Atomic Energy Agency's assurance of the discharge's negligible impact and routine wastewater releases by other countries’ nuclear plants.

Official Responses and Public Reaction

Japanese officials have strongly criticised reports linking these events to the Fukushima discharge, emphasising the lack of scientific evidence. Local authorities in both affected areas have warned against consuming the stranded fish, citing uncertainty about the circumstances of their death.

Images of the fish have circulated widely on social media, often accompanied by conspiracy theories about Fukushima. Although a direct link between the mass death of the fish and Fukushima discharge is yet to be established, there is also no evidence to the contrary, that the treated water from the plant is totally harmless to the sea life. 

The decision by the Japanese authorities to release the radioactive water into the ocean was criticised by several experts who suggested other uses for the water, such as production of concrete, which needs lots of water.


Reader Comments Reflect Diverse Opinions

The events have prompted varied reactions from readers worldwide. Some, like "Facts and Logic" from Dublin, call for more rigorous monitoring of Fukushima's discharge, linking it directly to the fish deaths. "Ultrafem" from the United States criticises the environmental impact of human activities.

Other comments lean towards skepticism or humour. "Jenny Talwarts" from the United Kingdom dismisses the Fukushima connection as "ridiculous click bait," suggesting that such fish die-offs are not uncommon and often attributable to natural causes like algal blooms. "Lilac80" from Canada makes a light-hearted comment about "free sushi," reflecting a mix of humour and indifference.

In contrast, "MrPractical" from Australia suggests banning Japanese fishing vessels from Australian waters as a response to these incidents, tying it to broader environmental and climate concerns. 

These comments reflect a wide range of perspectives, from environmental concern to skepticism about the links between these events and human actions, including the impact of the Fukushima incident. The diversity of opinions highlights the complexity of environmental issues and the challenge of finding consensus in the face of uncertain scientific data.