Has Fukushima poisoned the food chain?

Red snapperTo what extent are fish stocks contaminated by the Fukushima Disaster of 2011?

Should we avoid consuming fish from certain areas – and, if so, what exactly are those areas? Given the nature of ocean currents, the problem spreads far beyond the shores of Japan. If indeed there is a problem…

To understand the effects of the disaster on the marine ecosystem, we need to await the results of long-term research. In the meantime, the science is surprisingly scant, and the findings inconclusive.

To many, it appears very simple. A disaster involving nuclear waste has poisoned the Pacific, and the whole food chain is suffering as a result. Many journalists and bloggers don’t feel they need scientific research before announcing our impending, cancer-fuelled doom. They assert that this is a story of environmental disaster and cover-up on a huge scale. A quick glance through Robert Hunziker’s Fukushima Cover Up article will brief you on the chief salient points. It makes for chilling reading.

Other reporters, such as Julian Worland in his Time article The Lingering Effects of Fukushima on Fish, paint a less bleak picture. Similarly, the Huffington Post calmly reported on the results from an inconclusive study of radioactivity in Pacific fish, without over-blowing either side of the argument. The research they were looking at, Risk assessment of radioisotope contamination for aquatic living resources in and around Japan, conceded that there was indeed a degree of radiation in the seafood chain, but pointed out that sample sizes were not sufficient to draw firm conclusions or formulate plans of action.

Other reports have looked at radiation levels in general, rather than what is or isn’t present in samples of fish. The conclusions are seldom encouraging. Writing on globalresearch.ca, Michael Snyder sounds the Armageddon siren:

“Every single day, 300 tons of radioactive water from Fukushima enters the Pacific Ocean.  That means that the total amount of radioactive material released from Fukushima is constantly increasing, and it is steadily building up in our food chain.”

Journey into the unknown

But the uncertainties are many, and the clear facts few. It’s true that fish in the immediate vicinity of Fukushima are not fit to eat due to excessive radiation contamination. However, levels of radioactivity off the Pacific coast of America are below safety levels set by the World Health Organization (WHO). In Fukushima Five Years On they declared:
“From a global health perspective, the health risks directly related to radiation exposure are low in Japan and extremely low in neighbouring countries and the rest of the world.”
Dr David Suzuki on ecowatch.com takes a pragmatic approach which, given the uncertainties and lack of long-term scientific observation, may well be our best bet:

“I’m taking a precautionary approach: fish will stay part of my diet, as long as they’re caught locally and sustainably, and will remain so until new research gives me pause to reconsider.”

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