Ever since the disastrous meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima reactor in 2011, scientists have been trying to assess the effect of radiation on Japan’s environment, where the incident occurred, and also to trace radiation in fish all across the Pacific Ocean. While there is no denying the tsunami and related nuclear meltdown did a large amount of damage in Fukushima, seafood enthusiasts might be wondering if the damage spread to their own backyard, to Alaskan salmon, for instance.
Here’s the Good News
Early last year, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed that no traces of Fukushima-related radionuclides Iodine-131, Cesium-134 or Cesium-137 have been found in samples of Alaskan salmon including king, chum, sockeye and pink. (1)
“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, in an article published by Oceana, a non-profit dedicated to protecting and restoring the world’s oceans (2). “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. At those levels, you could eat piles of Pacific fish and have nothing to worry about from radiation," Fisher said.
The Testing is Ongoing and Far Reaching
The U.S. Division of Environmental Health tested other species as well to determine the levels of radiation in fish aside from salmon including halibut, pollock, sablefish, and herring, and none of those fish tested positive for Fukushima radiation either. The testing has been going on periodically from 2014-present and no detectable amounts have ever been found in any Alaskan seafood.
“DEC, in cooperation with its partners, currently deems fish and shellfish from Alaska waters unaffected by the nuclear reactor damage in Japan,” the department’s statement read. And although no trace of radiation has been found, the statement also read that the “DEC continues to collaborate with other government agencies and researchers monitoring the marine environment.” (3) Alaska has worked together with federal and tribal officials to ensure that consumers know that none of their prized seafood poses a threat.
“Not only has sampling lifted no radioactive materials from Alaska’s fish – predictive ocean modeling has also indicated that Alaska seafood is not at risk for potential Fukushima contaminants, as was found by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Department officials were able to sample the fish directly thanks to an arrangement with the FDA,” reports Seafood Source, a leading source of seafood industry news, covering seafood trade, food service and retail, aquaculture, sustainability and more. (3)
For a comprehensive look at all matters and studies related to Fukushima radiation concerns in Alaskan seafood, we encourage you to visit: https://dec.alaska.gov/eh/radiation.aspx.