Is Fukushima Radiation Contaminating Tuna, Salmon and Herring On the West Coast of North America?

Demand that Fish Be Tested for Radiation

Preface:  This post discusses both evidence and theories which need to be tested.  It is a starting point for discussion … not a definitive statement on the science.   The bottom line is that it is difficult to know what is happening when governments are not testing seafood.  So we need to demand that our local, state and federal governments test seafood for radiation.

We’ve extensively documented that radioactivity from Fukushima is spreading to North America.

More than a year ago, 15 out of 15 bluefin tuna tested in California waters were contaminated with radioactive cesium from Fukushima.

Bluefin tuna are a wide-ranging fish, which can swim back and forth between Japan and North America in a year:

news graphics 2005  607819a FDA Refuses to Test Fish for Radioactivity ... Government Pretends Radioactive Fish Is Safe

But what about other types of fish?

Sockeye salmon also have a range spanning all of the way from Japan to Alaska, Canada, Washington and Oregon:

Associated Press reports that both scientists and native elders in British Columbia say that sockeye numbers have plummeted:

Sockeye salmon returns plunge to historic lows.

***

Last month, [the Department of Fisheries and Oceans] noted returns for the Skeena River sockeye run were dire.

[Mel Kotyk, North Coast area director for the Department] said department scientists don’t know why the return numbers are so low…. “When they went out to sea they seemed to be very strong and healthy and in good numbers, so we think something happened in the ocean.”

***

“We’ve never seen anything like this in all these years I’ve done this. I’ve asked the elders and they have never seen anything like this at all.” [said Chief Wilf Adam]

Vancouver News 1130 notes that Alaskan and Russian salmon stocks have crashed as well:

“The sockeye runs way up north in the Skeena are low. The [fish] out of Bristol Bay, Alaska is down 30 to 35 per cent over last year. Russia has got a limited number of fish in the market. They are down about 40 per cent over all their salmon fisheries.”

(Russia’s East Coast sits on the Sea of Japan.  Indeed, Japan is closer to Russia than to Korea.)

Alaska’s Juneau Empire newspaper writes:

We are concerned this hazardous material is hitching a ride on marine life and making its way to Alaska.

Currents of the world’s oceans are complex. But, generally speaking, two surface currents — one from the south, called the Kuroshio, and one from the north, called the Oyashio — meet just off the coast of Japan at about 40 degrees north latitude. The currents merge to form the North Pacific current and surge eastward. Fukushima lies at 37 degrees north latitude. Thousands of miles later, the currents hit an upwelling just off the western coast of the United States and split. One, the Alaska current, turns north up the coast toward British Columbia and Southeast Alaska. The other, the California current, turns south and heads down the western seaboard of the U.S.

The migration patterns of Pacific salmon should also be taken into consideration. In a nutshell, our salmon ride the Alaska current and follow its curve past Sitka, Yakutat, Kodiak and the Aleutian Islands. Most often, it’s the chinook, coho and sockeye salmon migration patterns that range farthest. Chum and pink salmon seem to stay closer to home. Regardless of how far out each salmon species ventures into the Pacific, each fish hitches a ride back to its home rivers and spawning grounds on the North Pacific current, the same one pulling the nuclear waste eastward.

We all know too much exposure to nuclear waste can cause cancer. And many understand that certain chemicals, such as cesium-137 and strontium-9, contained in said waste products can accumulate in fish by being deposited in bones and muscle permanently.

We are concerned our Alaska salmon are being slowly tainted with nuclear waste. We are worried about the impact this waste could have on our resources, and especially the people who consume them.

***

We urge scientists in Alaska to be proactive about conducting research and monitoring our salmon species.

Similarly, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports that salmon are migrating through the radioactive plume, but Canadian authorities aren’t testing the fish:

[Award-winning physician and preventative health expert Dr. Erica Frank, MD, MPH]: There are Pacific wild salmon that migrate through the radioactive plumes that have been coming off of Fukushima. Then those fish come back to our shores and we catch them.

CBC Reporter:  The Canada Food Inspection Agency says it now relies on Japan for test results concerning radiation.

(American authorities aren’t testing fish for radioactivity either.)

Another example – pacific herring – is even more dramatic.   Pacific herring is wide-ranging fish, spanning all the way from Japan to Southern California:

Every single pacific herring examined by a biologist in Canada was found to be hemorrhaging blood.  As ENENews reports:


SOURCE: Alexandra Morton via Vancouver 24 hrs


Cover of Vancouver 24 hrs (SOURCE: Alexandra Morton)

The Globe and Mail, Aug 13, 2013 (Emphasis Added): Independent fisheries scientist Alexandra Morton is raising concerns about a disease she says is spreading through Pacific herring causing fish to hemorrhage. […] “Two days ago I did a beach seine on Malcolm Island [near Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island] and I got approximately 100 of these little herring and they were not only bleeding from their fins, but their bellies, their chins, their eyeballs.  […] “It was 100 per cent … I couldn’t find any that weren’t bleeding to some degree. And they were schooling with young sockeye [salmon]

Sun News, Aug 12, 2013: [Morton] dragged up several hundred of the fish this past weekend and found the apparent infection had spread – instead of their usual silver colour the fish had eyes, tails, underbellies, gills and faces plastered with the sickly red colour. “I have never seen fish that looked this bad,” […] In June, the affected fish were only found in eastern Johnstone Strait, but have since spread to Alert Bay and Sointula, she said.

Canada.com, Aug 16, 2013: Morton […] pulled up a net of about 100 herring near Sointula and found they were all bleeding. “It was pretty shocking to see,” said Morton […] Herring school with small sockeye salmon and are also eaten by chinook and coho.

‘Response’ from Canadian Government

Vancouver 24 hrs, Aug 11, 2013: [Morton] says Fisheries and Oceans Canada [FOC] is ignoring the problem. […] According to emails from FOC, the federal authority had asked the marine biologist to send in 20 to 30 herring in September 2011, saying that would be “more than sufficient for the lab to look for clinical signs of disease and provide sufficient diagnostics.” She did, and hasn’t heard back since. […] FOC officials did not respond to a request for comment by the 24 hours presstime.

Canada.com, Aug 16, 2013: Fisheries and Oceans Canada is trying to confirm reports from an independent biologist that herring around northern Vancouver Island have a disease that is causing bleeding from their gills, bellies and eyeballs. […] Arlene Tompkins of DFO’s [Department of Fisheries and Oceans’] salmon assessment section said staff in the Port Hardy area have not found bleeding herring. “We are trying to retrieve samples, but [Monday] we were not successful because of heavy fog,” she said. “We haven’t had any other reports of fish kills or die-offs [see salmon report below].” Tompkins has seen photographs provided by Morton […]

There have been many other reports of mysterious sickness among West Coast North American sealife.  For example, sea lions’ main food is herring:

Sea lions will eat a lot of different prey items: octopus, squid, small sharks. But their bread and butter is herring ….

Given that pacific herring are suffering severe disease, it is worth asking whether the “unusual mortality event” of Southern California sea lions is connected.

The bottom line – as nuclear experts said 4 days after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami – is that we all need to demand that fish be tested for radiation.

Notes: Apologists for reckless nuclear policy claim that low-level radiation is safe.  Scientists have thoroughly debunked those claims.

We are not implying that all of the drop off in salmon populations is due to radiation. There may be many other factors, as well. Also, while tuna may in fact swim all of the way from Japan to North America, and salmon may swim hundreds or thousands of miles, no individual salmon or herring swims all the way between Asia and the Americas.

Update: University of Washington Professor Trevor Branch sent us the following email:

I am surprised that an article composed of facts totally unrelated to Fukushima could make it past your editorial process, and the story has been widely derided by blogs and on twitter. Below is my response detailing the latest science, with the article attached in case you are unable to find it.

The scientists you quote repeated their own study on Pacific bluefin tuna in the US and Fukushima radiation testing in June 2013. Here are some highlights from their findings.
1. Radiation in bluefin from Fukushima is 1/1000 to 1/10000 of the radiation in natural seawater.
2. Radiation in bluefin from Fukushima is less than in food you eat every day that is uncontaminated (and much much less than x-rays, flying in a plane etc).
3. If 10,000,000 people each ate 124 kg per yr of bluefin tuna every year (which is a LOT), 2 might die from radiation.
4. However, global catch of Pacific bluefin is 20,000 t a year,
allowing only 161,000 people to eat that much, resulting in only 0.03 extra deaths per year.
5. If they ate less, the risk would be much less.
6. Since a single Pacific bluefin tuna sold this year for $1.8
million, they would also be left in poverty. (Not all sell for that
much, I know.)

Now the salmon and herring in U.S. waters do not travel anywhere near Fukushima, and would have a radiation load thousands to millions of times lower. These fish have local populations and are quite distinct from those populations near Fukushima. Radiation from Fukushima is diluted very rapidly within a few km of the leaks (the volume of the ocean is vast), and further than that the radiation is less than the radiation from naturally occurring polonium in the ocean.

All of the scary stories compiled in the article are just that, scary
stories completely unrelated to Fukushima. For example the quotes from Morton are specifically about disease in fish that has nothing to do with radiation.

To preserve the integrity of your news blog, I would suggest
retracting the article.

While we respect Professor Branch’s expertise in fisheries science – his knowledge of fisheries is significantly greater than ours, and he has proven that he is an honest academic by disclosing his funding sources to us upon request – we believe that he has made several erroneous assumptions.  Specifically:

1. There won’t be nearly as much dilution as assumed.

2.  Low-level radiation is not harmless, there was no background cesium radiation until recently, and our bodies have adapted to excrete radiation from sources such as bananas … but not cesium from fish.

 

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  • gozounlimited

    No Test…..No Eat…..No Industry

  • neo-realist

    You really mean Test….Positive Test……No Alaskan Fishing Industry….Destruction of Alaskan Economy

  • risa bear

    Both Canada and Japan fight testing because someone asks them to … an Uncle with a stripey suit and a white beard, to whom nuclear health means the health of certain corporations.

  • TheHealthPhysicist

    “Apologists for reckless nuclear policy claim that low-level radiation is safe.”
    There are two meanings to the word “safe”. There is absolute safety and relative safety and you are confusing (intentionally?) the two. Each bit of radiation you get can damage DNA, so it’s not absolutely safe. But when comparing the risk of cancer from low doses of radiation to other risks you don’t think twice about, low level radiation is relatively safe.
    There’s nothing wrong with doing some testing on some fish to confirm any levels of radioactivity are low. If they are, the fish are relatively safe to eat.

    • http://socialcritic.wordpress.com/ NEWS2VIEW

      People are living longer than ever today but with more and more levels of chronic illness and disability according to a report released last year. As products of the industrial era, we’ve all grown up in we are exposed to a manmade load of chemicals from BPA and mercury to radiation. We may be living longer than our great grandparents, but we’re living the years we have sicker, fatter and dumber (research out last year suggests that average intelligence has also declined). Each element of our own demise may represent a drop in the bucket, but if your diet, genes and place of residence conspire to fill up that bucket you aren’t going to conclude that such risks are merely abstract.

      Today, something like 1 in 2 men will get cancer and 1 in 3 women. Those numbers were unheard of in the pre-industrialized era. There is a bill stalled in Congress that would track cancer clusters in the US. You might think we’re already doing due diligence to collect the data, be it radiation in fish catches or cancer clusters in the US, but in reality most of the time it’s a case of “Don’t fund. Don’t find”. It’s easy to make statements about the safety of this or that when the research is too limited to “prove” anything one way or the other.

      One could argue there is a war on science. If science were pursued with vigor there could be much more liability as a byproduct of such findings. Lawsuits associated with having proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that particular chemicals in our food, water and air really are making us dumb, fat, sick and Autistic would no doubt proliferate. Think about it: We’re really not all that far along even in coming clean about the stuff we knew was bad for us for many years. It wasn’t long ago that the risks of tobacco were still up for debate. I can still remember all those Big T executives who testified that their products did not cause cancer.

      When there’s big money involved, two things happen: Big money covers its tracks, Big money does not fund research that could impact sales of its product be it radiation-contaminated fish or Teflon-coated pans (Teflon is silently being phased out per industry agreement but not before generating decades of profit). Every industry in this country has its lobbying group, and the fishing lobby will no doubt fight to prevent inspections from settling the fish-consumption debate one way or the other. The same thing happened with “mad cow” in that the beef lobby persuaded the USDA not to test US cattle destined for our plates for prions that can cause brain illness in humans. The entire scientific field has been co-opted in that the number of impartial funding sources pales in comparison to the industry-funded variety.

      If there is nothing to worry about with respect to eating fish caught in the Pacific, what’s the harm in proving how innocuous it is? As soon as I hear that public health agencies won’t test the fish, just like our “oversight” agencies wouldn’t test the beef — the USDA even sued to stop a private beef supplier that opted to fund its own product for mad cow —- you KNOW the reason they won’t comply with public demands is not because there is no danger but precisely because there IS. Give this shove-it-under-the-rug approach to public health another 100 years and we’ll be lucky if the average person lives to age 60 in good health.

  • Trevor Branch

    The scientists you quote repeated their own study on Pacific bluefin tuna in the US and Fukushima radiation testing in June 2013. Here are some highlights from their findings.
    1. Radiation in bluefin from Fukushima is 1/1000 to 1/10000 of the radiation in natural seawater.
    2. Radiation in bluefin from Fukushima is less than in food you eat every day that is uncontaminated (and much much less than x-rays, flying in a plane etc).
    3. If 10,000,000 people each ate 124 kg per yr of bluefin tuna every year (which is a LOT), 2 might die from radiation.
    4. However, global catch of Pacific bluefin is 20,000 t a year, allowing only 161,000 people to eat that much, resulting in only 0.03 extra deaths per year.
    5. If they ate less, the risk would be much less.
    6. Since a single Pacific bluefin tuna sold this year for $1.8 million, they would also be left in poverty. (Not all sell for that much, I know.)

    http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1221834110

    • smolgarf

      we know how to read the article above. the comments are for additional related info. have any?

  • Trevor Branch

    Now the salmon and herring in U.S. waters do not travel anywhere near Fukushima, and would have a radiation load thousands to millions of times lower. These fish have local populations and are quite distinct from those populations near Fukushima. Radiation from Fukushima is diluted very rapidly within a few km of the leaks (the volume of the ocean is vast), and further than that the radiation is less than the radiation from naturally occurring polonium in the ocean.

    All of the scary stories that you compile are just that, scary stories completely unrelated to Fukushima.

    • maryem513 .

      Trevor is just another person on the list of many ,that downplay the effects of radioactive materials in the ocean.I quote Trevor saying “radiation from Fukushima is diluted very rapidly”….”The volume of the ocean is vast”Just like so many others keep saying .I am not a scientist or genius but i assume that the ocean does not make the effects of radioactive material less potent,meaning,just because cesium-137 is in a large body of water does not mean that it stops radiating.I maybe wrong,so can anyone answer that?Does radioactive material become unactive when introduced to water or large bodies of water?IAM GUESSING IT’S STILL ACTIVE!!If it is still active then don’t you think that it is effecting marine life or even killing the fish?Don’t forget that yeah the ocean is vast but,keep in mind that those radioactive materials are STILL leaking out into the ocean,eventually it is going to be a high ratio of ocean water/radioactive materials…..Makes me so angry that people downplay these materials so much,some of them take millions of years to decay,so unless water makes these materials inactive,the ocean is going to be full of active isotopes for hundreds or even millions of years….suck on that for awhile MR.downplay

      • Annie_MotherOfInvention

        I agree with you!! I see a lot of people wanting to stick their heads in the sand because the truth is devastating.

    • maryem513 .

      Trevor is just another person on the list of many ,that downplay the effects of radioactive materials in the ocean.I quote Trevor saying “radiation from Fukushima is diluted very rapidly”….”The volume of the ocean is vast”Just like so many others keep saying .I am not a scientist or genius but i assume that the ocean does not make the effects of radioactive material less potent,meaning,just because cesium-137 is in a large body of water does not mean that it stops radiating.I maybe wrong,so can anyone answer that?Does radioactive material become unactive when introduced to water or large bodies of water?IAM GUESSING IT’S STILL ACTIVE!!If it is still active then don’t you think that it is effecting marine life or even killing the fish?Don’t forget that yeah the ocean is vast but,keep in mind that those radioactive materials are STILL leaking out into the ocean,eventually it is going to be a high ratio of ocean water/radioactive materials…..Makes me so angry that people downplay these materials so much,some of them take millions of years to decay,so unless water makes these materials inactive,the ocean is going to be full of active isotopes for hundreds or even millions of years….suck on that for awhile MR.downplay

  • guest

    Out of curiosity, where does the funding for this website come from? Could you post a link to it?

    Thanks

  • pluton-fluid

    There is little to no news coverage on this. 2013 fukashima still spewing out and no one knowing how to fix it. If there is info that says everything is fine..keep walking, folk are gonna want to believe it more than bad news. Thanks for the article. Healthy radiation levels have been getting higher and higher has anyone noticed this?

    • maryem513 .

      i have noticed ,i think i read and article where some radiation tests were taken and immediatly after getting the results,minimum safe levels for radiation where raised by 500%,guess some corporation was gonna take a hit to the wallet if those results found their way to the public and the safe levels left alone ,so they change the safe levels to make it seem less harmful

      • craazzee -

        “they change the safe levels to make it seem less harmful”…
        That right there should be a crime against humanity

  • pluton-fluid

    There is little to no news coverage on this. 2013 fukashima still spewing out and no one knowing how to fix it. If there is info that says everything is fine..keep walking, folk are gonna want to believe it more than bad news. Thanks for the article. Healthy radiation levels have been getting higher and higher has anyone noticed this?

  • Silhouett

    I would think testing would be a proactive approach to public safety. Regardless of what we believe.

  • Darlene Wolfe

    http://vimeo.com/77936639 everyone should watch!

  • http://socialcritic.wordpress.com/ NEWS2VIEW

    When I read the portion about the herring bleeding out, I understood that it could very well be a disease process but even if that were the case it does not rule out radiation exposure as an underlying factor. Exposure to radiation could compromise the immune systems of the fish as well as other marine life, thereby increasing a multitude of diseases and die-offs among sea life. The professor of fisheries quoted above conveniently left compromised immunity out. Sorry Prof, some of us are smarter than you think.

  • chapikwasci

    I am glad to see you included the criticism made by Trevor Branch, so am now a bit more concerned than before. As his argument he justifies no further testing based on his assumption that the many tons of highly radioactive water released by Fukushima is being diluted in the Pacific Ocean ‘dilution is the solution.’. Is this guy now a nuclear biologist and toxicologist too? First his claim that pass through exposure to gamma and x rays in a passenger jet is some how equivalent to ingestion uptake and bio accumulation in flesh, blood, and bone of a radioactive material are equivalent is flatly absurd. Trevor’s comment about a single tuna being worth in excess of a million dollars is a good point, but raising that as a reason not to test fish (as China is now doing daily for their public) is an unscientific response to testing diseased fish that form a key part of the ocean food chain. Yet Mr. Trevor offers comments to support his claim as a reason to censor the same article he is commenting about. I am sure a more credible source representing a government or industry position can be found to address emerging concerns due to large population and species die offs in the marine ecosystem.

  • chapikwasci

    If Trevor were really not concerned about dose and bio accumulation, then he would openly support testing because further data would confirm his position. I smell rotten fish somewhere.

  • littlecn4

    So far what data is available shows little concern, and higher levels are probably encountered by most people with average background sources and normal activities. More studies are always helpful to gain insight.

 

 

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