Japan fishing crippled 2 years after tsunami

(CBS News) TOKYO - The people of Japan this week marked the second anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that caused the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown. The meltdown forced the evacuation of some 170,000 people. Now the radiation leak is also forcing many fisherman to abandon their livelihood.

Despite the freezing dawn temperatures, skipper Tatsuo Niitsuma just wants to get back to work.

Ever since last year's nuclear disaster, Niitsuma is only allowed to fish once a week, and he must turn his catch over to a government lab.

This fishing boat is only 12 miles south of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. They're out catching fish just as they did before the accident, but only a fraction of their usual catch. None of this will be allowed to go on sale -- it's only for testing purposes.

Some fish still show high levels of radioactive cesium. Of the coastal fish tested, the government finds roughly 10 percent are safe to eat.

"Before the accident," said Niitsuma, "we sold fish. Now we're all living on compensation."

Ken Buessler is a U.S. Marine chemist from Woods Hole. He went to Japan three months after the disaster and studied the Japanese government's test results for the next 12 months.

"The numbers aren't going down that fast off Japan since the accident," he said.

Buesseler said he thinks Fukushima could still be leaking radioactive cesium into the sea, even though the nuclear plant's owner claimed it had been safely shut down.

"Those reactors," he said, "either by the cooling water that's still being put on there, that's leaking out, or the contamination of the site, are still releasing cesium to the ocean."

The nuclear disaster stole more than Tatsuo Niitsuma's livelihood. His 29-year-old daughter, Ikumi, was swept away in the tsunami. Her remains have never been found.

"When I'm alone," he told us, "I can't stop thinking about my daughter."

Having lost almost everything he ever cared about, Niitsuma is pinning his hopes on the fishery reopening. But unless the radiation numbers go down, it may be years before he gets some relief.

  • Lucy Craft

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