The Japanese government has set its first safety standards on radioactivity found in seafood after it was discovered that the radiation in the seawater surrounding the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex was several million times the legal limit.
Radiation has been leaking from the facility since the 9.0 magnitude earthquake followed by a massive tsunami struck Japan's northeast coast on March 11.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company announced Tuesday that it tested the seawater near one of the damaged reactors on April 2. One sample contained 7.5 million times the legal limit for radioactive iodine. That figure dropped to 5 million two days later.
Samples taken from hundreds of yards away from the plant tested at a thousand times the legal limit.
TEPCO insisted that the radiation will rapidly disperse and that it poses no immediate danger, but an expert said exposure to the highly concentrated levels near the plant could cause immediate injury and that the leaks could result in residual contamination of the sea in the area.
The new levels of radiation caused the government to set standards for radiation found in fish. It's unclear what effect the contamination will have on marine life.
"Even if the government says the fish is safe, people won't want to buy seafood from Fukushima," said Ichiro Yamagata, a fisherman who used to live within sight of the nuclear plant and has since fled to a shelter in Tokyo.
"We probably can't fish there for several years," he said.
Japan exported $2.3 billion worth of seafood last year to the world. And in the home of sushi, the worries over contamination could deal a blow to its brand.