The Daily Scoop: Fukushima water dump stirs seafood fears

Plus: Nike to produce women’s goalkeeper jerseys after backlash and get ready for more conspiracy theories during the election.

The release of treated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant is causing seafood fears

Japan has released treated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant that so infamously melted down after a 2011 tsunami devastated the region. International experts agree that eating seafood from Japan after the release remains safe, save for that coming from a narrow area near the release site, the New York Times reported.

But people are still afraid and refusing to eat seafood from Japan and beyond. Communications failures are in large part to blame.

The plan was first announced two years ago, which is plenty of time to mount an effective communications strategy. But the New York Times reported that both Japanese and international officials have failed to use that time. As it so often does, misinformation communicated what truth did not.



Why it matters:

The mistrust extends beyond Japan’s borders and across Asia, where longstanding animus between Japan, South Korea and China exacerbate the problem. Korean students were arrested for protesting the decision to release the water at the building that houses the Japanese Embassy. China has banned import of all fish from Japan, not just from the areas nearest the discharge.

And indeed, even seafood caught outside Japanese territorial waters is now languishing in markets across the region, the New York Times reported.

Scientific communications are one of the most complex yet important fields of public relations. We saw during the pandemic how good communications can save lives — and how bad communications or a simple void can cost them. The stakes are less dramatic here, apt to cost livelihoods over lives. But the impact will be no less devastating.

The failure of the Japanese government, seafood industry and international partners to launch an effective campaign that communicated that the seafood was safe and, perhaps more importantly, why it is safe, could have ripple impacts for years.

The New York Times reported a few ongoing efforts: banners in a fish market, a photo op with Japan’s economics minister chowing down on sashimi. It’s still possible to turn things around — but it’s a much harder battle now that the water has been released and conspiracy theorists can point to any marine abnormality or human illness as proof that seafood is tainted.

Editor’s Top Reads

  • On a related note, expect more conspiracy theories on social networks in the run-up to the 2024 American election as these apps follow Elon Musk’s lead and say it’s not their responsibility to police truth on their platforms. Meta, Alphabet and others claim they still have the tools to do so, but many organizations have gutted their moderation teams since the last election, the Washington Post reported. In a sign of the times, former President Donald Trump made his return to X/Twitter last night, tweeting his mugshot. The former leadership of Twitter had banned him after the events of Jan. 6, 2021, but Musk has welcomed him back.
  • Nike will begin selling jerseys of star England goalkeeper Mary Earps after outcry, NPR reported. Interest in Earps skyrocketed after she was named the best keeper of the Women’s World Cup, yet consumers could purchase only the outfielder jersey for the English team, which looks significantly different. Nike regularly produces men’s goalkeeper jerseys, but had not done so for women’s teams. “We recognize that during the tournament we didn’t serve those fans who wished to show their passion and support to the squad’s goalkeepers. We are committed to retailing women’s goalkeeping jerseys for major tournaments in the future,” Nike said in a statement. Expect equity in sports to continue to be a bigger issue in the future, from pay to merch — and be ready.
  • YouTube is introducing a hum-to-search feature that will help you identify that earworm, Mashable reported. Only available to select users for now, the voice search function gives users easy access to a vast library of music to help them identify songs from movies, commercials or just crawling out of the recesses of their memory. Voice search is continuing to surge in popularity — have you optimized your website to take advantage of it?

Allison Carter is executive editor of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


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