Rethinking Pacific Seafood

Readers will know I have been wary of Pacific seafood. It seems like ancient history but some will remember Fukushima back in 2011. Simply put, a lot of radioactive material made its way into the Pacific Ocean. I don’t like the idea of eating salmon with a side of Cesium.

That was ten years ago. What are the radioactivity levels today? They are a little hard to find because a lot of agencies stopped testing a few years ago. Why? Because the radiation levels on the Pacific coast of Canada and the USA are now so low. Still, with a bit of digging, and help from some web buddies, I can share the following information.

Six years ago, a devastating tsunami swept over the eastern edge of Japan, killing over 18,000 people and triggering a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The plant was perched on the coast, so some radiation leaked into the sea. In the months and years following the meltdown, people began to wonder: Did these leaks make Pacific seafood too dangerous eat?

The answer, then and now, is no, scientists say. The Fukushima leaks were miniscule compared to the vast scale of the Pacific, said Nicholas S. Fisher, an expert on nuclear radiation in marine animals at Stony Brook University in New York. The disaster added just a fraction of a percent to the radiation that’s already in the ocean, 99 percent of which is naturally occurring.”

By January 2017, about 12% of the original Fukushima 134Cs remains in the environment compared to March/April 2011 when the disaster occurred, so we correct our data to account for decay of both cesium isotopes from the time of peak release directly to the ocean from the reactor complex in Fukushima: April 6, 2011. We do this to look for changes in the levels of cesium that result from ocean mixing and dilution, rather than just radioactive decay. For human health concerns, the activity at sampling may be of greater interest, and will be lower than the decay-corrected value.”

“Fukushima radiation monitoring is indicating that concentrations may be slightly decreasing from their peak in January 2018. Levels remain well below those known to be a considerable ecological and health risk, according to the latest monitoring data. The new data, collected between December 2018 and February 2019 (posted in the map above), are from samples collected through our citizen science monitoring network in sixteen coastal communities from Victoria to Lax Kw’alaams.

In 2018, 40 salmon were sampled from hatcheries and donated from our First Nations partners around BC and Yukon. No Fukushima radiation (cesium-134) was detected in any of the samples and there were no individual fish with detectable levels of either cesium-134 or cesium-137. Through a technique to increase the detection sensitivity that involves adding the data from multiple samples we were able to determine that trace levels (~0.3 Bq m-3) of cesium-137 (that has a 30 year half-life and is present in the environment from both Fukushima and atmospheric weapons testing) were present in some salmon species.”

DEC [Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation], in conjunction with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and other state, federal, and international agencies, has been testing Alaska seafood for any potential impacts resulting from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. Testing results have shown no detectable levels of Fukushima-related radionuclides.”


The evidence suggests that radiation levels are significantly lower than they were ten years ago at the bare minimum. Indeed, in some tests, radiation from Fukushima could not be found in the fish. What does that mean for safety? For me, it seems safe enough to have some Pacific salmon once in a while. It’s nearly impossible to find wild Atlantic salmon where I am and farmed salmon has its own significant problems.

If the studies above were from big government and big business only, I’d be very sceptical. However, if you take a look at couple of them, you’ll see they have no allegiance other than the truth.

I’ll probably go for some Pacific salmon next week.

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