China has halted imports of Nishikigoi, ornamental carp, from Japan, sources familiar with the bilateral relationship said Thursday, in what could be a part of Beijing's pressure against Japan over the release of treated radioactive water into the sea from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.
Beijing did not renew its permission for a designated quarantine facility in Niigata Prefecture necessary for Japan's Nishikigoi exports to China after it had expired at the end of October, the sources said. Niigata is the birthplace of Nishikigoi breeding.
Bilateral ties remain strained over the wastewater discharge from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which began in late August and prompted China to impose a total ban on seafood imports from Japan.
Nishikigoi have been gaining popularity overseas as pets in recent years. Japanese exports of the fish in 2022 amounted to 6.3 billion yen ($41.7 million), with the figure doubling from the level a decade before.
China was the biggest importer of the colorful carp last year, accounting for 19 percent of the total exports from Japan, according to Japan's Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.
Tokyo has made inquiries about China's Nishikigoi import suspension through diplomatic channels, but Beijing has yet to respond, the sources said.
In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a press conference Thursday that Japan will "continue to urge Chinese authorities" to complete procedures necessary for the resumption of Nishikigoi trade at an early date.
Matsuno said Japan had submitted to China materials required for the renewal of the permission for the quarantine facility "well in advance," stressing Tokyo had followed the proper procedures.
China has fiercely opposed the wastewater release into the Pacific Ocean, labeling it "nuclear-contaminated."
Japan's marine product exports to China plunged 90.8 percent from a year earlier to 800 million yen in September after Beijing began the blanket import ban. Nonfood products such as pearls, coral and carp were among the products shipped in the month, Japanese government data showed earlier in the week.