Understanding the movement of Fukushima-derived radioactivity through marine ecosystems may come down to getting a better handle on the tiniest of creatures—the microscopic plankton that take up so much volume in the sea. But one species that has become emblematic of the disaster is a shimmering giant: the Pacific bluefin tuna.
Increasingly overfished, Pacific bluefins are among the most prized table fish in the world. A single 500-pound specimen recently fetched $1.76 million in a Tokyo auction. Beyond their allure as high-end sushi material, however, they are amazing migratory animals. Spawned in the waters off Japan and the Philippines, these fish as juveniles swim the entire 6,000-mile breadth of the Pacific—a four-month journey—to fatten up in food-rich waters off California. Years later, larger and sexually mature adults undertake a return crossing to spawn.
As respective experts on radioisotope uptake in marine life and tuna migration patterns, Nicholas Fisher of Stony Brook University and Daniel Madigan of Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station knew that young bluefins caught off California during the summer of 2011 likely would have spent their early days in contaminated waters off Fukushima. Would these fish act as “biological vectors” transporting radioisotopes between distant shores?
The Accidents at Fukushima
Fukushima and the Ocean Colloquium, May 9, 2013 http://www.whoi.edu/main/morss/fukushima
Fukushima Radiation the Pacific https://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=67796
Lessons from the Japan Earthquake http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/viewArticle.do?id=131749
Café Thorium (Ken Buesseler’s Lab) http://cafethorium.whoi.edu/website/about/index.html
WHOI Tsunami website http://www.whoi.edu/home/interactive/tsunami/indexEnglish.html
Fishing for Answers off Fukushima http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=7545&tid=3622&cid=153749
Radiation and the Oceans http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=83397&tid=3622&cid=94989
Japan, 2011 http://www.whoi.edu/main/japan-2011