Are fish dying after the release of Fukushima wastewater?

We’ve come across several posts and videos on social media making claims about the impact of wastewater being released from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant (which commenced as planned on August 24.). In these posts, a video depicting numerous dead fish washed up the shore of a Japanese beach is claimed to be the result of “nuclear polluted water discharge.”The shocking visual of the fish dying en masse has been held up as proof that the wastewater has had immediate negative impacts. Given the controversial nature of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant wastewater disposal, this video circulating introduces even more potential confusion to related issues, such as how safe Japanese seafood is to consume.

We did a reverse image search and found versions of this video posted as early as February 2023 on Chinese video-sharing sites Douyin and Weibo, months before August 24.Based on the original audio (which can be heard in the videos from February), the video originates from a Japanese streamer who is describing the scene to his viewers. Further reverse searches with a focus on February 2023 also turned up Japanese articles and news reports on dead fish washing ashore on February 7. In all the Japanese language sources we could find, no reference is made to the Fukushima nuclear plant or even radiation as the cause of the fish deaths.

Further, the incident took place in Itoigawa City – located over 250 kilometres away from Fukushima on a different coast, distancing it even more from any relationship with the wastewater disposal.2023 has seen several other similar occurrences of dead fish washed up on beaches around the world – from Texas to Thailand – with causes such as climate change and low oxygen levels in the water offered as possible explanations. Claims which imply that dead fish are inevitably the result of radiation poisoning are therefore also misleading.

While no cause has officially been announced for the incident in Itoigawa City (AFP news reached out to Japanese officials who have stated that the cause remains unclear) claims which link the video directly to the Fukushima nuclear plant wastewater disposal are false. The video was taken months before the wastewater disposal on an entirely different coast to the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.

Many of the discussions around the wastewater disposal are high-charged and politically sensitive, with China banning imports of Japanese aquatic products and protests taking place in Korea after the Korean Government endorsed the release.

The use of misleading media such as this video to shape or push certain narratives further muddies the waters, causing more anxieties and spreading misinformation. While forming opinions on the issue, it is therefore important to sift through credible sources and avoid knee-jerk reactions to shocking imagery or misleading claims.

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