TOKYO - Japan introduced a new legal limit Tuesday for radioactive iodine in fish, as the operator of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant continued to pump toxic water into the Pacific Ocean.
The government also said it would look at widening its testing to cover a larger area after raised levels of radioactive iodine were discovered in a small fish caught off Ibaraki prefecture, south of the plant.
Government spokesman Yukio Edano said fish containing 2,000 becquerels of radioactive iodine or more per kilogram should not be consumed, extending a limit already applied to vegetables in Japan to seafood.
"As there is no limit set for radioactive iodine in fish, the government has decided to temporarily adopt the same limit as for vegetables," he told a press conference.
Radioactive iodine of more than double that concentration has been detected in a variety of fish called konago, or sand lance, prompting a local fishing cooperative to impose a ban on the species.
The release of 11,500 metric tons, or more than four Olympic pools' worth, of radioactive water into the sea has raised concerns about marine life in the island nation, where seafood is a key source of protein.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has said it needs to release the low-level radioactive water into the sea to free up urgently needed safe storage space for water so toxic that it is halting crucial repair work.
Radioactive iodine above legal limits has been detected in vegetables, dairy products and mushrooms, triggering shipping bans, but officials had said seafood was less at risk because ocean currents and tides dilute the dangerous isotopes.
On Tuesday, local fishermen reacted angrily to the decision to dump radioactive water into the sea, and sent a letter of protest to TEPCO.
"We were notified about it... Can you believe it?" said Yoshihiro Niizuma, of the Fukushima Fisheries cooperative.
Image: Noah Dropkin / via Flickr