If radiation from Fukushima is detectable in fish, scientists can use it to trace the routes of the many sea creatures, from tuna to sharks to turtles, that make long journeys across the open seas.
For instance, we still don’t understand Pacific bluefin tuna migration. Only some of the tuna born each year leave the Western Pacific around Japan for California, swimming for two months or more to reach their destination. They stay here for a few years, and then they swim back to the waters where they were born so that they can reproduce. Some tuna are may cross the ocean many times, and researchers don’t understand why. It may have to do with food availability, ocean temperatures or something only the fish understand.
But the scientists may have to work quickly to capitalize on their opportunity: Radioactive materials decay, and Fukushima’s trail will fade.
In the February 26th edition of the Los Angeles Times, Eryn Brown quotes marine biologist Dan Madigan as saying, "It’s black water, and all of a sudden you have a huge animal. Why? Why now? And why here?"
Brown quotes Madigan’s colleague Nicholas Fisher as saying that when he started examining some of the fish Madigan bagged, "I thought, OK, I can do this, but I wasn’t expecting anything." But after examining a sample from the first fish, Fisher called Madigan and said, "You’re not going to believe it, but here it is." The tuna tested positive for cesium-134 and cesium-37, both known waste products from Fukushima. A second fish also tested positive for the isotopes. So did a third. And a fourth.
In the end, every single one of the 15 fish they examined carried radiation from the power plant. According to Fisher, "This was just nature being amazing. Now, potentially, we have a very useful tool for understanding these animals."
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