Monday, May 28, 2012

(UPDATED) Stanford Researchers Found Radioactive Cesium of #Fukushima Origin in Pacific Bluefin Tuna Off California Coast

(UPDATE) The paper as posted in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS):

(H/T karl)


The researchers from Stanford University, California caught 15 tuna fish off the coast of southern California last August and measured radioactive cesium-134 and -137. Nine months later, it is in the news now that their research paper has finally been published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Neither the Wall Street Journal article below, or Reuters', mentions the exact numbers for radioactive cesium, but Japan's Kyodo News does:

Cesium-134: 4 Bq/kg
Cesium-137: 6.3 Bq/kg

The Stanford researchers think the fish were in the Japanese water about a month after the accident started. Daniel Madigan, who led the study, said they were surprised to find cesium at all, and that it was found in all samples they collected and tested.

Wall Street Journal says the added radioactivity is about 3% of the naturally occurring radioactivity in the fish, and Reuters converts becquerels into curie to put things in perspective saying "It takes 37 billion becquerels to equal 1 curie".

Well, at least the Japanese media, MSM or alternative, has gotten comfortable over the last year quoting the measured numbers instead of trying to put them in perspective without mentioning the numbers.

From Wall Street Journal (5/28/2012; emphasis is mine):

Tuna Carried Fukushima Radioactivity to U.S. Coast


Pacific bluefin tuna migrating last year from coastal Japan to the waters off Southern California contained radioactive cesium isotopes from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, scientists reported Monday.

The amount of radioactivity in the fish was one-tenth the level the U.S. and Japan consider dangerous, and likely posed no public health hazard or risk to people who ate the seafood, the scientists said. But the study showed for the first time that migrating sea life rapidly brought traces of radioactive elements from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors across vast distances.

"The tuna packaged it up and brought it across the world's largest ocean," said marine ecologist Daniel Madigan at Stanford University, who led the study team. "We were definitely surprised to see it at all and even more surprised to see it in every one we measured."

Their findings raise the possibility that other wide-ranging sea-life that foraged near Japan, such as turtles, sharks and seabirds, may also have carried low levels of radioactive cesium from the accident around the Pacific basin. The scientists expect to conduct more tests on migrating bluefin tuna as well as albacore tuna, sea turtles, and several shark species this summer.

Their research was published Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Prized as a sushi delicacy in Japan and around the world, Pacific bluefin tuna spawn in the Sea of Japan, among other locales. As they grow, the fish usually travel around the southern tip of Japan and follow the Kurishio Current up the country's east coast, past the scene of the nuclear accident, before migrating over 6,000 nautical miles to the eastern Pacific. The fish eventually return to their birth waters to spawn.

In their study, Mr. Madigan and his colleagues tested tissue from 15 young Pacific bluefin tuna caught by recreational fisherman off the coast of San Diego in August 2011, about five months after an earthquake and a tsunami severely damaged the Fukushima reactors, triggering the largest known accidental release of radioactivity into the ocean.

For weeks after the accident, levels of radioactivity were up to 10,000 times normal in the coastal waters off eastern Japan, where the bluefin tuna spend their early life before migrating across the ocean.

In the young bluefin tuna that reached California, the researchers found slightly elevated levels of cesium-137 and cesium-134, two primary products of nuclear fission that tend to concentrate in muscle tissue. The amount of cesium 137 was five times as much as the background level, leftover from nuclear weapons testing decades ago. Prior to the Fukushima accident, cesium-134, which has a half-life of about two years, was undetectable in seawater or marine life.

Overall, the levels were just enough to raise the naturally occurring radioactivity of the fish by about 3%, the scientists said.

"We found that absolutely every one of them had comparable concentrations of cesium-134 and cesium-137," said marine biologist Nicholas Fisher at Stony Brook University in New York state, who was part of the study group. "It is crystal-clear data."

For comparison, the researchers also tested tissue from yellowfin tuna caught at the same time last August and tissue preserved from bluefin tuna caught in 2008, three years before the nuclear accident. Yellowfin tuna typically spend their entire lives in the sea off the coast of California.

In both the yellowfin and the tissue of the 2008 bluefin, the scientists didn't find any cesium-134 and detected only the expected background levels of cesium-137.

Write to Robert Lee Hotz at


Leo Fernandez said...

I love cesium with my mercury

Janonymous said...

BBC, you're doing it wrong

Look there for even more perspective and no real number...

Anonymous said...

I guess perspective is needed for people outside Japan. People inside Japan would look at these numbers and may say they are low compared to everything else around them.

Anonymous said...

137.9 months later?

Anonymous said...

Oh, you changed it... or maybe I misread it. Thanks/sorry about that.

Anonymous said...

Radioactive Cesium has a half-life into the decades (30 yrs). Radiation poisoning has a cumulative effect. The impact of this is generational (affecting you and your children, and their children).

People are forced to stop eating fish from the Pacific Ocean (eventually all oceans), or else risk contracting cancer in greater and greater numbers. This is good business for the doctors and hospitals. But who is ultimately to blame? The nuclear power industry and their supporters.

Anonymous said...

OT@anonymous 7:42am
it is obvious that you're from the united states, because "everywhere else" everybody chips in for health-care. in a real democracy, "ill" people are NOT good business. they cannot work and be productive members of society, hence they try to get them healthy fast and keep them that way. maybe you should check-out the film "sicko" by michael moore?
finding nemo just got easier : D

"captain siiir, we have 4 times normal background radiation starboard."
"aye mate, cast 'em nets and prepare to come about"

Greyhawk said...

Radioactive Cesium accumulates in muscle tissue, like the human heart. Cesium 137 has a half life of 30 years. Those who eat a lot of these fish will most likely die of heart failure before they die of cancer.
These fish were caught in August of last year and we're just NOW hearing about it? I cannot help but wonder what the radiation count is now.

Anonymous said...

Did any of the articles mention the biological half life of Cs137 in tuna, it is 70 days in humans.

karl said...

The original article.

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