Japan has expressed bafflement over the unknown cause of the unprecedented occurrence of 1,200 tonnes of fish mysteriously washing up on its shores, stating, “I have witnessed nothing comparable to this before.”

The fish were discovered floating on the surface of the sea near the fishing port of Hakodate in Hokkaido. Japanese officials are struggling to determine why hundreds of tons of fish have washed ashore recently.
In the past month, around 1,200 tons of sardines and mackerel were found floating on the surface of the sea off the fishing port of Hakodate in Hokkaido, forming a silver blanket stretching for over a kilometer.
Recently, in Nakiri, a town located on the Pacific coast several miles south of Hokkaido, officials were faced with 30 to 40 tons of Japanese scaled sardines, known as sappa, which were seen in the area a few days earlier.
Local fishermen rushed to collect the fish, concerned that their decomposing carcasses would decrease the oxygen levels in the water and harm the marine environment.
“A fisherman who has been working in the area for 25 years said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this before. It was only last year that we started catching sappa in Nakiri. It makes me wonder if the marine ecosystem is changing,’” according to the Mainichi Shimbun.
Experts have speculated that the migratory fish in both locations became stranded after being chased to exhaustion by amberjack and other predatory fish. They added that mass mortality events can also occur when there are sudden drops in water temperature, causing the fish to go into shock.
However, the cause has not been confirmed. “The cause is currently unknown,” stated Mikine Fujiwara, a local fisheries official, to the newspaper. “We plan to collect seawater samples at the site and examine them to determine the cause.”
The Japanese government officials have criticized an article in the British newspaper The Daily Mail, which seemed to connect the phenomenon to the release of treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The article highlighted that dead fish began washing ashore nearly four months after the plant started discharging the water, which contains small amounts of the radioactive isotope tritium, into the Pacific.
The International Atomic Energy Agency approved the plan and stated in a safety review that discharging the water would have “a negligible radiological impact on people and the environment.”
China, which opposed the discharge and enforced a ban on Japanese seafood, has been accused of hypocrisy since its own nuclear plants routinely release wastewater with higher levels of tritium than that found in Fukushima’s discharge.
“A Japanese fisheries agency official told the Asahi Shimbun, ‘We are concerned about unsubstantiated information.'”
Images of the fish have been widely shared on social media, often accompanied by conspiracy theories related to Fukushima.
“The fisheries agency said, ‘There have been no abnormalities found in the results of water-monitoring surveys,’ referring to the water that has been pumped out of the Fukushima plant so far. ‘We’re concerned about the proliferation of information that’s not based on scientific evidence.'”
Fishing cooperatives in Fukushima had warned that the discharge would further damage the reputation of their seafood.
Town officials in Hakodate advised local residents not to consume the stranded fish, as there were reports of people gathering and selling them. “We don’t know the circumstances under which these fish washed up, so I don’t recommend eating them,” stated Takashi Fujioka, a fisheries researcher.

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