Radiation levels remain especially high in many species that Japan has exported to Canada in recent years, such as cod, sole, halibut, landlocked kokanee, carp, trout, and eel.
Of these species, cod, sole, and halibut, which are oceanic species, could also be fished by other nations that export their Pacific Ocean catch to Canada.
The revelations come from the Japanese Fisheries Agency’s radiation tests on almost 14,000 commercial fish catches in both international Pacific and Japanese waters since March 11, 2011, when an earthquake and tsunami triggered multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
The numbers show that far from dissipating with time, as government officials and scientists in Canada and elsewhere claimed they would, levels of radiation from Fukushima have stayed stubbornly high in fish. In June 2012, the average contaminated fish catch had 65 becquerels of cesium per kilo. That’s much higher than the average of five Bq/kg found in the days after the accident back in March 2011, before cesium from Fukushima had spread widely through the region’s food chain.
In some species, radiation levels are actually higher this year than last.
The highest cesium level in all of the catches came in March—a year after the accident—when a landlocked masu salmon caught in a Japanese river was found to have a whopping 18,700 becquerels of cesium per kilogram—or 187 times Japan’s ceiling.
Japan exported $6.9 million of fish and crustaceans to Canada in the first four months of 2012, according to Statistics Canada, which would work out to $20.7 million per year if averaged. That would be up from $16.3 million in 2011, which itself was higher than the 2010 total of $15.4 million.
Statistics Canada data shows Japan exported $37,000 worth of “Pacific, Atlantic, and Danube salmon” to Canada in the first four months of 2012.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada spokesperson James Watson said by phone from Ottawa that his department doesn’t know if Canada has imported masu salmon from Japan.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in a July 17, 2012, statement that Canada has imported one shipment of masu salmon, in October 2011, since Fukushima. The statement says the product was processed in the U.S., the shipment’s country of origin was not disclosed by the importer, and the product was not tested for radiation. (Masu salmon is also found in other parts of East Asia.)
CFIA spokesperson Lisa Gauthier refused to make someone available to answer questions on fish monitoring.
Japanese finance ministry trade data, however, shows Japan exported 120 kilograms of masu salmon to Canada in April 2011, directly after the nuclear accident.
Authorities in Canada dismiss the calls for monitoring.
“Not involved, not involved,” said Tom Kosatsky, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s acting medical director of environmental health services, when asked about monitoring of radiation in Pacific fish.
“It’s a federal responsibility,” he said in a phone interview.
In the past, the CFIA has said it has no plans to monitor Pacific fish or imports from Japan and other countries whose fishing fleets plumb the Pacific.
The agency briefly monitored Japanese food imports from the vicinity of Fukushima after the accident, but ceased the tests in June 2011. It also did radiation tests on a dozen fish caught in B.C. coastal waters last August and another 20 in February 2012, finding no cesium, according to the CFIA website.
The B.C. Seafood Alliance’s Christina Burridge said in a phone interview last January that she was surprised the CFIA wasn’t doing more tests.
She said the agency last year promised her group, an umbrella of Pacific seafood-harvesting associations, that it would test Pacific salmon and tuna returning to B.C. waters in 2012 and 2013 because those fish may have migrated close to Japan.
Burridge couldn’t be reached for comment by press time.
Meanwhile, Japan’s seafood exports to Canada seem to be growing despite Fukushima and reports that the accident kneecapped the Japanese fishing industry.
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