A new study from Oregon State University has found that tuna caught off the coast in Oregon contain increased levels of radiation. This increase is thought to be from the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.
On March 11, 2011, an earthquake hit Japan. It was said to be the most powerful earthquake the nation had ever experienced. The shaken Japanese were in for worse luck as the quake triggered a massive tsunami. As the tsunami washed over the nuclear plant at Fukushima, several of the large nuclear reactors suffered meltdowns. The broken reactors managed to leak into the ocean, increasing levels of radiation in the area. Since then, there have been fears that the radiation would reach the US coast. New findings resulting from resent research into tuna, show that this problem might be happening. However, the results are a very different case from other historical meltdowns.
The study, which was published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal, has found that the radiation in the tuna is currently at a very low-level. Lead author Delvan Neville, who is working in the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation at OSU as a graduate research assistant, has stated that there are only “trace levels” of radiation, which are too low to be of “realistic concern.”
Scientists who worked on the article took samples from 26 Pacific albacore tuna and studied the radiation found in their guts, loins and intestines. The fish were caught between 2008 and 2012, giving researchers a comparison between fish that were around prior to the accident and those that had been swimming in waters that may have an increased concentration of radioactivity.
However, the good news is that the fish are still safe to eat. Neville reportedly stated that more than 700,000 pounds of the fish could be consumed to even match the radiation that humanity regularly faces annually from cosmic rays, x-rays, the air and other sources.
The possible bad news is that the levels of radiation found in the tuna could increase as they repeat their migration cycle across the Pacific Ocean. Radionuclides in the four-year-old fish were slightly higher than the younger ones. But this may not be of great concern as these fish spend only the first few years of their lives following migration patterns. Once they are matured at around age five, they cease their migratory adventures and go south to the subtropical areas around the Central and West Pacific regions. According to scientific reports, they do not return to the US West coast or Japan. The silver lining of the increased radiation is that researchers are able to study the migration routes of the albacore, which is something that has not yet been looked at in-depth.
This may be fine for humanity, but the increase in radiation levels may be found to have an effect on the larger animals of the sea that are eating krill or tuna themselves. Creatures like whales may be receiving a double dose of radiation not only through diet, but also through passing through infected waters themselves.
The meltdown at Fukushima might also continue to affect fish as water currents carries the radiation away from the original site.
There are plans to continue studying the tuna in greater numbers to get a better idea of health concerns. The program also hopes to extend to California and other areas in the North Pacific Ocean
By Sara Watson