Okanagan Lake salmon shows traces of Fukishima radiation

Seaborne radiation from Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster detected in a Canadian salmon.

Seaborne radiation from Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster detected in a Canadian salmon. (Contributed)

For the first time, seaborne radiation from Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has been detected in a Canadian salmon, according to a report from the InFORM coastal network that monitors marine radioactivity off BC.

The single sockeye salmon contained a miniscule amount of cesium-134, the “fingerprint” isotope from Fukushima. The salmon was collected in Okanagan Lake in summer 2015 and was one of eight fish out of a total of 156 that tested positive for trace levels of cesium-137, also a manmade isotope, but not necessarily from Fukushima.

“With its roughly 30-year half-life, cesium-137 is still present in the environment from 20th-century nuclear weapons testing and Chernobyl, in addition to Fukushima,” said UVic chemical oceanographer Jay Cullen.

The team did more intense analysis to determine if the telltale cesium-134 was also present.

“We took these same eight fish and measured them for 60 times as long as we normally do to look for the Fukushima fingerprint,” said Cullen.

“This is analogous to cupping your hand behind your ear to pick up a whisper from across the room.”

The level of cesium-134 in the one salmon was 10,000 times lower than Health Canada safety guidelines, which is nowhere near a significant risk to consumers.

“For perspective, you would need to eat 1,000 to 1,500 kg of salmon with this level of contamination in a short period of time to increase your radiation dose by the same amount as a single five-hour cross-country airplane flight,” said Cullen.

Testing in 2016 discovered one sockeye salmon from Sproat Lake on Vancouver Island with a “minimum detectable concentration” of cesium-137. Further testing is being done to determine whether it’s traceable to Fukushima.

The radiation plume from Fukushima has spread throughout the northeast Pacific from Alaska to California with maximum levels of contamination expected nearshore this year and next.

The InFORM network involves scientists in Canada and the US, health experts, non-governmental organizations—and citizen scientists along the BC coast who assist with the monthly collection of water, and annual collection of fish and shellfish samples for analysis.

The samples supplement measurements taken offshore by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and a citizen scientist network coordinated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution that extends from the Bering Strait to San Diego.

“As the highest concentrations from this plume arrive in the next few years, we’ll continue to monitor radioisotope levels and what kind of risks they pose,” said Cullen. “Levels measured now and predicted at their peak are unlikely to represent a significant health risk to the marine ecosystem or public health in BC.”

InFORM is funded by the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network. For more information, visit fukushimainform.ca

Just Posted

Battle of the concert bands in Lake Country

The annual Concert Band competition is held at Creekside Theatre April 24 to 26

Snoozed through the news? We’ve got you covered

Every Saturday, the Capital News will feature popular stories from the week

Immigrant finds Kelowna job market challenging

Pearl has a Master’s Degree in Finance and was able to find work through KCR

Okanagan Eats back for another year

Okanagan Eats features vendors, chef demos, and so much more. This isn’t your average food show.

Kelowna landfill flooding

The ground is soggy at the Kelowna landfill

Lt.-Gov. Guichon believes she made the right decision in last B.C. election

Outgoing Lt.-Gov Judith Guichon said her most memorable moments weren’t surrounding the election

NAFTA: Talks continue through weekend in scramble to get a deal

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called negotiations ‘perpetual’

Pulp mill fined $900,000 for leaking effluent into B.C. lake

Mackenzie Pulp Mill pleaded guilty to depositing deleterious substance into water frequented by fish

B.C.’s 2-year lobbying ban starts May 1

Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists can grant exemptions from the prohibition if public interest

Horgan speaks of government’s successes to ‘friends’ at CUPE BC convention

CUPE BC president Paul Faoro said was first time a B.C. premier addressed convention in some time

Speed Skating Canada fires coach Michael Crowe after investigation

Crowe was a coach on the American team from 1983 to 1991 and again from 1999 to 2006

5 things to know about the ongoing influx of asylum seekers in Canada

Number of illegal border crossings are up this year – as RCMP, military, politicians try to combat

Salmon Arm RCMP arrest one male on child pornography charges

Search of Canoe residence leads to seizure of computers

Letter: We need a parity electoral system

I suggest that it’s high time we consider a system based on a synthesis of available data

Most Read