Saturday, March 26, 2011

Are Alaska Fisheries At Risk?

A few days ago I posted two maps, one showing a proposed plume of radioactive vapor emanating from the damaged nuclear power plant at Fukushima, Japan. The other showed salmon migration routes in the north Pacific Ocean. The overlap of the two, I thought, was foreboding. (Salmon Migration Routes and Japan's Radiation Plume)

This morning I read that Alaska fisheries could indeed be at risk:
"In a worst-case scenario, said Paul Falkowski, a professor of marine sciences and geology at Rutgers University, a major ocean current that travels up the coast of Japan, across the Pacific and into the Gulf of Alaska could carry radiation to Alaska fisheries months from now. He said the International Atomic Energy Agency should monitor such movements, although he and other experts considered it highly unlikely that the current would take the radiation to Alaska unless the leak became far worse."
- Radiation, Once Free, Can Follow Tricky Path, New York Times, 21 March 2011
At risk, that is, if "the leak became far worse." It looks like the leak became far worse:
"Levels of radioactive iodine in seawater just offshore of the embattled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant spiked to more than 1,250 times higher than normal, Japan's nuclear and industrial safety agency said Saturday.
(Update Sunday: "Japan's nuclear agency said that levels of radioactive iodine in the sea near the plant had risen to 1,850 times the usual level.")
Samples taken Friday morning from a monitoring station 330 meters off the coast were significantly higher than results from the previous morning, when the level was 104 times above normal."
- Radiation In Seawater Off Nuclear Plant Spikes To 1,250 Times Normal, CNN, 26 March 2011
Radioactive Particles Ascend The Food Chain

While salmon and other Alaska catch are miles from the nuclear fallout, the fish they consume, and the seafood and sea plants those fish in turn consume, may not be. Also from that NYTs article:
"[Radioactive] Cesium is dangerous because it is long-lived and travels easily through the food chain, continuing to emit particles for centuries once it is released.

More than 15 years after the Chernobyl accident in what is now Ukraine, studies found that cesium 137 was still detectable in wild boar in Croatia and reindeer in Norway, with the levels high enough in some areas to pose a potential danger to people who consume a great deal of the meat."
Photo of Alaska salmon spawning by Brian Healy. Available for purchase from his site.


Anonymous said...

Scary, I love wild Alaskan salmon.

My favorite sentence is "experts considered it highly unlikely that the current would take the radiation to Alaska"

Everything will be alright :)

Bix said...

As I said in my post, it may well be the food chain, in addition to air or water currents, that impact the Alaska fisheries ... and the people who depend on them for their livelihood. This part of Alaska is "the most remote, ignored area of the United States, with the highest unemployment and poverty levels." - Greenberg "Four Fish"

All local plants and animals (land and sea) will be affected. How will this bioaccumulate? Will we test? And Claudia makes a good point, as we find elevated levels, will we prioritize economics over public health?

If we can tie a possible depletion of the fisheries to the accident, perhaps we can compensate the people.

Dr. Mel said...

There was some small level of radiation detected this weekend in Massachusetts waters. Small as in a bit higher than normal, but supposedly not dangerous. Blown there (supposedly) by prevailing west winds.

Dr. Mel said...

Beautiful photo. Just glancing at it, at first I thought it was budding asparagus!

Prasad said...

world is shocked with the Earthquake & tsunami in Japan. Now Japan is suffering with radiation threat. World countries are well known about the threat from the Nuclear Power Plants.Every Country should not build Nuclear power plants. They should search for other alternatives for power generation

Bix said...

It is a beautiful photo, isn't it. Love the red stripiness, the movement.

Atlanta Roofing said...

Every sense they started spraying water on these Reactor Plants water has been seeping into the ground around these Reactors. The contamination is in the sand all around the Reactors and is getting to the ocean that way not in sight of everyone.

Ben P. DaSalt said...

I realize that I’m not exactly the addressing question being posed when considering if fisheries are at risk, but in a counterintuitive way, radioactive poisoning of Alaskan waters may benefit fisheries.

After the Gulf of Mexico spill, with less fishing there were reports of fish population increase. The pollution was much less of a factor against population growth compared to the routine level of fishing.
(I’m not that confident on the reliability of the information source, but there’s certain logic to the idea.)

I recall reading about a boon in the wildlife surrounding the area at Chernobyl as well. It’s a wasteland for civilization, but a sanctuary for wildlife to thrive in.
(That’s a more trustworthy source to help support the idea.)

If the story radioactive contamination of Alaskan waters gets picked up, it wouldn’t necessarily take a fishing moratorium as consumers may be put off to the idea of eating Alaskan anything; demand would drop and fish catch a break from continuous fishing.

With that said, it’s important to bear in mind the sheer amount of radiation humankind has release into the oceans and atmosphere.

“For example, at Bikini Atoll between 1946 and 1958, the US detonated 23 atmospheric nuclear bomb tests, including the first hydrogen bomb, which exploded far more violently than predicted and contaminated a swath of ocean 100 miles/160 kilometers away from the epicenter. The fallout affected inhabited islands, fishing boats and fishers at sea, and, obviously, a lot of marine life.”

Here’s a captivating presentation on Youtube showing the global Nuclear Detonation Timeline "1945-1998"

Starts a bits slow, but picks up to a chilling climax.

Elli Davis said...

And how do we know they are posting us with correct information. The other day, they reported radioactive levels reaching deadly heights and few hours afterwards they corrected it. Sounds a bit weird to me...

Bix said...

Ben, that was a really good article from Mother Jones about radioactivity in the ocean. Just eye-opening:

Anonymous said...

In Kodiak Alaska, salmon season drawing to a close. The most dismal returns from all species of salmon I have seen in 10 years. Could be a multitude of reasons, but my curiousity brought me to this article. just may not sleep tonight

Anonymous said...

Is there any update to this article? I can't find anything recent about fish radiation from Alaska, while Fukushima is still a huge issue that isn't being covered very much.

Anonymous said...

The reason there are NO UPDATES is that a number of reports coming from both US-based independent measurement facilities and from Chinese maritime research groups put the level of ocean contamination from Fukushima in places at 50 million times normal levels! Simply put: YOU CANNOT SAFELY EAT FISH!
And the proclamations submitted by the USDA and the Pacific fishing industry that "our seafood is safe" are just a lot of dangerous phoney baloney.

Anonymous said...

Comparing a nuclear blast aftermath to Fukushima is ignorant and/or misleading. They do not exhibit the same deposition of nucleotides into the environment nor the same long-term effects.

Anonymous said...

Bix said... ?