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Could Radiation Fear Sink The Fishing Industry?

Comments (4)
| Food
Byron Tseng |
April 16, 2014 | 3:57 p.m. PDT

Guest Contributor

Fisherman Mike McCorkle has been fishing for 60 years and contends that he may be facing his biggest challenge yet. In the past few months he says that Korean newspapers in the L.A area have been warning their readers to avoid eating locally-caught fish. The Korean press claims that locally-caught fish contain radiation. McCorkle says his buyer, Paul Kim, has seen a 60% drop in demand of his product.

During the Ocean Sciences meeting on February 2014, the Woods Hole Institute of Oceanography in collaboration with the Bedford Institute of Oceanography confirmed that a plume of radiation from Fukushima will arrive on the American West coast in April of 2014.

Although the presence of the radioactive isotope Ceasium-134, which could only have originated from the Fukushima area, has been travelling in this plume; Director of Research at USC's Homeland security center, Isaaac Maya, explains the scope, "Radiation dosage is measured in sieverts. In the United States, 1 milisievert of radiation is the recommended for human exposure in a given year." He adds, "One ten ounce serving of Blue fin Tuna that swum from Japan to the United States contain one nanosievert of radiation. By comparison one banana contains 100 nanosieverts." Scientist conclude that even the radiation from a tuna that has migrated directly from Japan contains negligible radiation due to the dilution from the sea.

Although the science refutes any danger from consumption of Pacific fish, some still retain a fear of radiation. Santa Barbara's Seagrass Restaurant no longer serves Pacific fish. Seagrass Restaurant's head chef, Robert Perez, explains, "I have heard too many stories of starfish melting and the collapse of the sardine, salmon, anchovy, squid and oyster industries in the Pacific to be comfortable preparing them. One source of Perez's fear is because he subscribes to the independent news site ENE News, which compiles negative news on Fukushima and its effects on seafood. Perez adds that the Japanese government has enacted a law forbidding discussion of Fukushima and radiation in Japan, fuelling Perez's own suspicion on consuming Pacific fish.

The America seafood industry is particular vulnerable to such fears due to the minute quantities Americans consume seafood. In 2013, Americans consumed on average 14 pounds of seafood per capita, by comparison the average East Asians consumed on average 44 pounds of seafood per capita. Tuna importer, Rex Ito, thinks that Americans should be doing the opposite of avoiding seafood, "From a seafood guy. To be healthy; exercise, lose weight and have a nice piece of fish once in a while."

McCorkle has not seen any change in the quality and quantity of fish. He calls the fear mongering of wild Pacific seafood "absurd" and "nothing to worry about." Although the plume of radiation is imminent, most credible scientists in North America are unconcerned with the trace amounts of radiation that are arriving.

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