Thousands of tons of dead fish have washed up on a beach in northern Japan, prompting speculation that the release of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant has wrought havoc on local ecosystems.
The sardines and some mackerel washed ashore in Hakodate on Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido on Thursday morning, creating an unsettling sliver blanket that covered almost a mile of shoreline.
Officials could not come up with an explanation for the phenomenon, but Takashi Fujioka, a Hakodate Fisheries Research Institute researcher, posited a number of theories as to why the fish could have died en-masse.
He said they may have become exhausted due to a lack of oxygen while moving in a densely packed school in shallow waters, or may have suddenly entered cold waters during their migration and succumbed to shock.
There have been several recorded cases of similar phenomena springing up on several parts of Japan’s coastline.
But this particular phenomenon occurred just three months after Japanese authorities began releasing treated radioactive water back into the sea – a move which angered its neighbours including China and South Korea.
China has since banned Japanese seafood and criticised the country as being ‘extremely selfish and irresponsible’, with the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper The Global Times writing it could open ‘Pandora’s box’ and trigger fears of a ‘real-life Godzilla’.
South Korean protestors also attempted to enter the Japanese embassy in Seoul carrying banners which read ‘The sea is not Japan’s trash bin’.