What is our government doing to monitor fish from Japan?

Photo: Nikola Miljkovic

Not a whole lot, according to Alex Roslin’s article in this week’s Georgia Straight. Roslin’s article, “Japan’s irradiated fish worry B.C. experts”, raises questions about how much is being done about monitoring fish imported from Japan and monitoring cesium levels in B.C.’s Pacific salmon that often migrate near Japanese waters. In June 2012, Japan tested land-locked fish and fish from the Pacific. The results revealed that levels of cesium in the fish were higher than they had originally anticipated. Japanese cesium count in food is capped at 100 Bq/kg, according to their study only shark, mackerel are safe to eat and not cod, trout, carp, sole, halibut, or eel. Roslin also points out that the levels of cesium are much higher in the studies conducted in 2012, than in 2011. This is possibly due to the fact that the tests conducted in 2011, were perhaps too early. The fish hardest hit are land-locked salmon; their results meassured at 18,700 Bq/kg. The majority of the fish tested had cesium levels measuring between 200 and 600 Bq/kg, much higher than Japan’s ceiling for safe consumption.

In Canada, cesium in food has a cap at 1,000 Bq/kg. This is perhaps why seafood is still imported from Japan, and possibly why our own fish populations are not being carefully monitored this year. The important point raised by Roslin’s article is that B.C.’s migratory salmon can stray into Japanese waters and this could be a concern. When Roslin asked B.C.’s Centre for Disease control about monitoring fish, their response was that this is a Federal issue, not a Provincial one. Roslin mentions that according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) website, studies on Pacific fish were taken in June 2011, August 2011 and in February 2012 with results finding no to little cesium in the fish. None of the spring and summer runs of salmon have been tested this year. Scientist, doctors, and concerned citizens, as Roslin’s article highlights, the government should be more involved with testing the radiation levels in fish.

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