To Eat Or Not To Eat? The Nuclear Tuna Question

Posted by: Kelsey Schueler

The news is flush with headlines about the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi meltdown. From previously unreported leaks to the challenges of cleanup to the impact on our oceans, lots of folks are understandably concerned. Some of the most outlandish headlines focused on research published by Daniel Madigan, Zofia Baumann and Nicholas Fisher from . These researchers’ findings have many asking, should I be eating nuclear tuna?

Photo credit: Marco Care

Before answering that question, there’s an underlying question to ponder: should you eat Pacific bluefin tuna at all? The clear answer is no. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, . Why? Because bluefin tuna are being fished unsustainably with stock depletion at 96.4%. In terms of human health, methyl mercury, a neurotoxin, is the major concern. The FDA already against consuming too much tuna.

If you’re eating bluefin tuna anyway, here is what you need to know: Tuna samples had cesium radiation levels 10 times higher than before the tsunami. However, this is not a health concern because . You’d have to eat 5,000 to 8,000 pounds of tuna to be at risk.

Radiation sounds scary. But, it is important to remember that most food contains naturally occurring radiation. Bananas contain about 20 times the dose found in radiated tuna. In fact, the seafood you have been eating for years contains traces of cesium left over from Cold War nuclear weapons testing.

On the other hand, there is reason for concern about local non-pelagic fisheries near Fukushima. Many bottom dwelling species that don’t move far from home show cesium levels 40% above health advisories. As a result, these fisheries remain closed.

Bluefin tuna, on the other hand, swim 6,000 miles across the entire Pacific from their Japanese spawning grounds to feeding grounds off California. As they swim across the ocean, radioactive materials in their flesh are diluted. By they time they reach California, radioactivity is than levels near Fukushima. It also means the cesium acts as a natural tracer to study migrations of fish, birds, mammals, and turtles.

Photo credit: Gerick Bergsma

While the human risk of eating Bluefin tuna isn’t much worse as a result of the Fukushima disaster, the Bluefin tuna’s risk of extinction from continued human consumption remains frighteningly high.  So, come to think of it, maybe it’s better if people believe they’ll grow additional arms and sprout eye stalks if they eat Bluefin tuna these days.

Date Posted: November 20, 2013 @ 2:29 pm Comments Off


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