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Murky days for world's largest fish market

AAP logoAAP 7/10/2016 Antonio Hermosin

The impending relocation of Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market, the largest in the world, has hit a roadblock owing to contamination at the new site following a series of political errors that could take a toll on tourism and the traders.

Thousands of foreign tourists and locals flock daily to the rundown alleys of the market filled with fish vendors and restaurants displaying over 450 native species of fish, shellfish, mollusks and other fresh and processed produce.

But it seems that the days of this market at its central location between the Ginza neighbourhood and the Sumida River, where it has been for the last eight decades, are numbered.

As part of the renovation of Tokyo before the 2020 Olympic Games and amid a tourism boom, the government decided to move the market to Toyosu, an artificial island in Tokyo Bay, near the Olympic Village, where it will have larger and more modern facilities.

The project has provoked opposition from the tourists, local population and workers that has only grown with a series of complications and failures in management. As a result, the relocation, scheduled for November, has been pushed back indefinitely.

The detection of toxic substances in the water under the new site - from a former plant of Tokyo Gas - and its possible impact on the market has also caused much public concern.

Tsudoi Fukuhara, the owner of a shop selling tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette), told EFE he was concerned about the contamination at the site.

The uncertainty regarding the relocation of the historical market could also lead to economic losses as traders like Fukuhara have already paid for equipment they'll use at the new site.

The problems surrounding the new site go back to 2008, when Tokyo authorities commissioned a study of the subsoil and a project to decontaminate it.

However, the ineffectiveness of those measures has caused the arsenic and benzene levels to rise, further increasing the cost of relocation, which could go up to $US5.7 billion ($A7.5 billion), 36 per cent more than was initially expected.

The new site has also been criticised for its remote location - it is located about 2km east of the present location, although it is connected by metro - and its cold exterior, which resembles a gigantic hangar or industrial warehouse.

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