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Written By: Dan Bacher, February 12, 2014
Editor’s Note: There has been a lot of misinformation spread on the internet about the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster and its impact on the ocean and fish in particular. The following report provided by the Yurok Tribe Environmental Program helps to dispel some of this misinformation.
by Yurok Tribe Environmental Program (YTEP)
In spite of the news about the massive radiation leaks into the Pacific Ocean, the EPA and other authorities insist that it has only local Japanese impacts and will be diluted by the ocean waters and not impact us here in the U.S.
There has been testing of different things but no elevated levels above normal background have been detected in any resources in the Yurok area of northern California. YTEP is taking radiation concerns seriously and is constantly following up on any and all studies or reports on the subject.
The first radiation issue was the risk from the initial Fukushima plant shutdown as the tsunami hit in 2011. This released radioactive steam that entered the atmosphere and storm clouds brought it over the Pacific where rain in British Columbia, Canada deposited it directly following the event.
There were higher than “characteristic” levels in Vancouver seaweeds – but they were taken off rocks below a storm drain that concentrated particles from the rainfall and created hot spots from the urban run-off.
We tested local seaweeds during the first months after the Fukushima accident. All 2011 local seaweed tests came back consistently negative.
Air transport of radioactive particles is a lot faster than the ocean currents of the fish swimming in them. So since then, we’ve also researched the available information on the migratory patterns of key subsistence foods (Coho salmon, Chinook salmon, steelhead and sturgeon that enter the Klamath River) and found that these fish do not swim in Japanese waters and are NOT at risk of radioactive contamination.
Steelhead have the longest migration, but only go far as north as Alaska. The Alaskan populations go to the northern Pacific region of China, and possibly into the Japanese Sea area. Japanese testing of these have come back negative and NO Klamath fish would go that far or come back this far.
The first year’s migration of Bluefin tuna off southern California in 2012 did have radiation above the background level and it DID have the Fukushima “fingerprint,” meaning that the isotopes matched what Fukushima released, but the levels were very low.
The concern was not for those that were leaving Japan at the time of the accident, but for the young tuna that hold and fatten up in the Sea of Japan and would have a longer exposure to the local radiation and might carry higher levels before crossing the ocean this year.
In August 2013, 50 tuna were tested and the Fukushima levels were undetectable.
It’s known that the tuna have the ability to metabolize and shed radioactive substances (like all of us). However, there is now research showing that Bluefin tuna excreted cesium 134 on a daily basis. So even the big fish are OK.
Lamprey might be the only potentially contaminated food because they are a parasitic species and it would entirely depend on what host they latched to in the ocean. But since the tuna came back clean and they’re the only ones that might carry radiation from Japan, they too are probably clean, so we haven’t tested lamprey.
Michael VB’s web report (2013) on the testing of 2 soil from the Willow Creek area, 1 mushroom (from up on Six Rivers National Forest, and 1 seaweed from Trinidad) samples that he sent into a commercial lab for Spectroscopy analysis for gamma radiation from 1odine-131, Cesium-134 and Cesium-137.
* The 2013 seaweed was NO detect from all.
• The soils had NORMAL, low background Cesium detected (between 0.1 to 13 Bq/kg).
• The mushrooms had no detects from Cs-134 nor Iodine-131, but levels (23 BQ/kg) for Cs137. We don’t have any reference for normal levels in mushrooms, but EU limits are 600 Bq/Kg and even the more stringent Japanese limits are 100 Bq/kg, so they seem safe.
• In addition, Kathryn Higley, Professor and Head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics at Oregon State University. had done radiation testing on ocean food. She has a great student who is completing radiation uptake studies on crab.
As with the other Fukushima studies, Kathryn says they have NOT detected any levels of radiation originating from the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactor.
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