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Are thousands of dead fish washing up in Japan after the release of wastewater from Fukushima?

A worker sorts fish in preparation for an auction at a fish processing center in Fukushima, Japan
A worker sorts fish in preparation for an auction at a fish processing center in Fukushima, Japan Copyright Jae C. Hong/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Jae C. Hong/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved
By Sophia Khatsenkova with AFP
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That’s what one video shared in Chinese and Korean claims. However, it's an old video filmed more than six months before Japan even started releasing the discharge into the Pacific Ocean.

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It’s a video that’s been shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media, especially by Chinese and South Korean users.

It appears to show thousands of dead fish floating in the waters near a beach after Tokyo started releasing wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant on the 24th of August 2023. 

"They say it's the first day of discharge from Fukushima... The fish should be classified as nuclear waste," said one Facebook user.

The clip was also shared on TikTok, where one account described the scene as "Nuclear polluted water discharge in Japan." 

Major backlash and panic from China and South Korea

An earthquake followed by a tsunami in 2011 damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant, contaminating water within the facility with highly radioactive material.

Since the disaster, the company running the power plant TEPCO, has been pumping in water to cool down the reactors. 

This means every day the plant produces contaminated water, which is enough to fill more than 500 Olympic swimming pools.

That storage space is about to run out according to the country’s authorities. Leaving them no choice, they say, other than to begin getting rid of the wastewater into the Pacific.

The release of the treated wastewater prompted heavy criticism and panic for Japan’s neighbours.

China banned all Japanese seafood imports, andfears of radioactive contamination have prompted panic buying and boycotts over seafood in several cities in South Korea. 

An outdated video filmed more than six months before

But by doing a reverse image search, we found the original video on Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok and it has nothing to do with the release of the wastewater. 

It was posted on the 7th of February 2023, more than six months before Japan even started to release the wastewater. 

AFP managed to geolocate where the scene was filmed. It was shot on a beach near the Tsutsuishi fishing port in Itoigawa City. 

The city is located on the west side of Japan – on the opposite coast of the nuclear plant and is over 280 kilometres away. 

A local official told AFP that about 250 tonnes of dead fish were found, but the cause of the death remained unclear.

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