Updated – No Fukushima radiation found in 2016 Alaskan fish

Alaska Department of Environmental ConservationNo Fukushima contamination was found in any of the 14 fish Alaskan fish samples that were collected between February and September 2016, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. The results, released on the Alaksa DEC website, show that the sampled herring, cod, and pollock, halibut, and salmon did not have any detectable levels of 131I, 134Cs (the Fukushima fingerprint radionuclide with a half-life of ~2 years) or 137Cs in the tissues.  These samples were from across Alaskan waters from Southeast to Bristol Bay and the Aleutian archipelago and the Bering Sea. Results from 2016 are similar to their results from 2015 and are part of the network of institutions monitoring for Fukushima radiation in marine waters and seafoods.

The average minimum detectable concentrations for these Alaskan samples on this gamma spectrometer were 63.7 Bq kg-1, 2.1 Bq kg-1, and 1.9 Bq kg-1 respectively for 131I 137Cs,  and 134Cs. While InFORM does not analyze for 131I, those detection thresholds for cesium are 2-3 times higher than are typical for our biotic monitoring program. This may be due to either a smaller sample size or a shorter time in the gamma spectrometer for the Alaskan samples, but the result remains that levels are well below those where intervention is needed (intervention levels for 131I = 170 Bq kg-1 and 134Cs + 137Cs = 1200 Bq kg-1 according to the US Food and Drug Administration). InFORM monitoring in 2016 found 9 salmon (out of 123) from BC and Yukon rivers with detectable levels (where the minimum detectable concentrations were less than 1 Bq kg-1) of  137Cs after a six hour detector run. These nine samples are currently being freeze-dried for an extended, 2 week long, detection run. Results from this additional analysis are expected probably mid-late spring 2017.

An interesting aspect of these 2016 Alaskan samples is that this was the first time a field-deployable gamma spectrometer has been sent by the US Food and Drug Administration to a site for local analyses of samples. Data from the spectrometer were then electronically sent to FDA scientists for analysis. The thought is that this model could be used in the event of nuclear emergency to allow for more rapid analyses of environmental samples.

Alaska DEC will continue monitoring fish samples for Fukushima radiation for at least 2017 and possibly beyond.

4 thoughts on “Updated – No Fukushima radiation found in 2016 Alaskan fish”

    1. Hi Jeff,
      Good question, first, let me point out that the results from these 14 fish are from analyses conducted by the Alaskan Department of Environmental Conservation, not the InFORM program so I cannot directly speak to their costs. For ours, I’m asking our partners at Health Canada for an estimate, because I don’t know that I’ve heard a true number for our biological analyses. That said, our water samples cost in the neighborhood of C$750-800+ ($570-625) for each run by the time that you include shipping costs, materials, time on the detector for maintenance purposes, and salaries of all the individuals that are involved in generating the data. So yes, the costs definitely add up the more samples that you do.

      When you consider that InFORM has processed nearly 400 salmon samples and over $250 water samples, it adds up in a hurry, but science does tend to be an expensive endeavour so we try to give the most value for the amount invested. That is why we are not only reporting the observed measurements, but also investigating the utility of these data for describing circulation throughout the coastal waters of British Columbia.

      Funding for our research comes from MEOPAR (www.meopar.ca) one of the Canadian National Centres for Excellence based out of Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS.

      Thank you for your interest in the project, I’ll post an update when I hear back about the cost per salmon sample.

      Jonathan Kellogg, PhD
      InFORM Program Manager


    1. Hi Annette,

      I cannot speak for the Alaskan testing specifically, but for InFORM salmon testing, we focus on 134-cesium, 137-cesium, naturally occurring 40-potassium, and naturally occurring 210-polonium radionuclides. Do you have a specific interest or wonder about plutonium or uranium that I could track down an answer to?

      Thanks for your interest in the project,
      Jonathan Kellogg, PhD
      InFORM Program Manager


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