HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong has set up a special government team to monitor and review an import ban on some Japanese seafood due to the country's imminent release of treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea.
Hong Kong authorities will strengthen monitoring of seafood imports coming from Japan and publish daily radiation sample results so the public can see, the city's Permanent Secretary for Environment and Ecology Vivian Lau said.
Though approved by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, Japan's plan to dump the water has faced opposition at home and abroad, including from China, over worries about food safety. Hong Kong's leader said on Tuesday that he strongly opposed Japan's release of the water into the sea, while Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin called the move "extremely selfish" and that Beijing had lodged a formal complaint with the Japanese government.
On Thursday, Japan will begin releasing more than a million tons of water from the plant north of Tokyo, insisting it is safe to do so. The plant was wrecked in a 2011 tsunami and the water has mostly been used to cool damaged reactors.
Hong Kong's import ban is also due to take effect from Thursday. It covers imported aquatic products from the Japanese regions of Tokyo, Fukushima, Chiba, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma, Miyagi, Niigata, Nagano and Saitama.
The government said there was no timetable about how long the ban would last and that a decision would depend on data and information from the Japan after the discharge.
Seafood imports from 13 other Japanese regions will still be allowed.
The measure covers live, frozen, refrigerated and dried aquatic products, sea salt and seaweed.
Hong Kong is Japan's second largest market, after mainland China, for agricultural and fisheries exports. It imported 75.5 billion yen ($519.54 million) worth of seafood from Japan last year, Japanese data shows.
Some Hong Kong fish sellers, like 57-year old fish shop owner Robert Ho, said the ban would likely help their sales of local fish.
"Because there's no Japanese fish in the market our local fish have the upper hand... do we still need to eat Japanese fish when we have these big locally caught fish?"
($1 = 145.3200 yen)
(Reporting by Farah Master, Twinnie Siu, and Joyce Zhou; Editing by Kim Coghill)