Normally, Japan businesses export £33.5 million’s (6.3 billion yen) worth of koi carp to China annually. The exports require a licence from China and Japan’s 15 domestic carp farmers were licensed by the Chinese government for three years but those licences expired at the end of last month. They’ve entirely lapsed because they had not been renewed and the Japanese government don’t know why.
Diplomats from Japan and China are discussing why Beijing has blocked imports of ornamental koi carp. The current thinking is that it is in retaliation for a bust up over the Fukushima nuclear power plant debacle.
Even the Japanese government doesn’t know why licences haven’t been renewed. It’s a problem because until recently 19% of exported carp went to China. It was Japan’s biggest overseas market. 60% of ornamental fish bred in Japan are exported.
The current thinking is that the decision to cease providing licences is connected to a dispute over Fukushima. You may remember the power plant suffered a meltdown after the tsunami in 2011. And earlier this year the authorities began to release treated wastewater from the plant into the ocean. There are arguments that it is radioactive although most scientists and foreign governments agree that this process poses no threat to life.
The multicoloured fish are called nishikigoi or “brocade carp”. They are multicoloured and esteemed by collectors across the world. They are bred in freshwater nowhere near the Fukushima power plant and it is believed that they are unaffected by radiation.
Perhaps the Chinese authorities think otherwise and fear that the carp have been irradiated.
The secretary general of the All Japan Nishikigoi Promotion Association told The Times that “The farmers and quarantine facilities are waiting for the Chinese government’s approval for export. Even [the] Japanese government does not know the reason for the delay.”