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October 25, 2012

Pacific Albacore Now Contain Minute Traces of Radiation

Trace Amounts of Radiation in Albacore Caught Off the Oregon Coast are Linked to Radioactivity Leaked from Japan's Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Albacore caught in Pacific waters off the U.S. show minute amounts of radiation that can be traced to the Fukushima reactor disaster, according to a report on underwatertimes.com, which cites a study by Oregon State University (OSU) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The radiation levels are far below anything that would pose a risk to humans who consume the fish, the report stated. Additional albacore remain to be tested.

The OSU/NOAA researchers have collected and tested albacore -- the popular white-meat tuna -- caught off the Oregon coast both before and after the devastating March 2011 Japanese tsunami and subsequent release of radioactive material into the ocean by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor, according to the underwatertimes.com report.

"We're still processing new fish, but so far the radiation we're detecting is far below the level of concern for human safety," Delvan Neville, a graduate researcher with OSU's Radiation Health Physics program and a co-investigator on the project, told underwatertimes.com.

"To increase their normal annual dosage of radiation by just 1 percent, a person would have to eat more than 4,000 pounds of the highest (radiation) level albacore we've seen," Neville said.

The OSU team's findings are consistent with those of California researchers who announced in May 2012 that they had found traces of Fukushima-linked radiation in Pacific bluefin tuna caught off the California coast. The bluefin news came as a surprise to the scientific and regulatory community, underwatertimes.com reported.

Shortly after the March 2011 Japanese tsunami and reactor disaster, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration and NOAA jointly expressed "high confidence" in the safety of U.S. seafood products, suggesting it was unlikely that migratory fish such as tuna would be contaminated to "significantly elevated radiation levels,"  according to underwatertimes.com.

On a fisheries research note, some scientists are curious as to whether the radiation released by the Fukushima nuclear plant could be used as a "natural tag" to help unravel some of the questions about fish migration. Researchers have been trying to figure out how albacore migrate for decades, and so the Fukushima nuclear disaster may have a scientific silver lining after all.