National Fisherman

Mixed Catch 

jerryJerry Fraser is NF's publisher and former editor.



The devastating earthquake and tsunami that shook Japan in March 2011 may be over, but its metaphorical aftershocks have reached the United States.

That earthquake damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, triggering radiation emissions that contaminated waters off the Japanese coast. Now a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states that bluefin tuna caught near San Diego in August 2011 contained elevated levels of radioactive cesium-137 and cesium-134. 

It's believed the bluefin swam through the contaminated waters before migrating across the Pacific Ocean.

However, the study also says the radiation levels found in the tuna, while higher than normal, fall well below U.S. Food and Drug Administration health risk limits. At this point, it appears a wasabi bomb may pose a greater immediate threat to sushi lovers. 

But the presence of radioactive materials in the bluefin plus the arrival of earthquake and tsunami-related marine debris upon the coasts of Washington and California concerns Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). He's sent the FDA and NOAA letters asking the agencies about their efforts to ensure seafood safety and protect public health.

"The importance of our seafood stocks and the jobs they support require vigilance when monitoring the half-life of radiation present in fish and marine debris," says Markey, a Natural Resources Committee member and senior Energy and Commerce Committee member, in a press statement. "We need to understand the environmental and human health implications of the Fukushima disaster on Pacific seafood, and I look forward to responses from these two agencies."

Inside the Industry

NMFS has awarded 16 grants totaling more than $2.5 million as part of its Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program.

The program supports the development of technological solutions and changes in fishing practices designed to minimize bycatch and aims to to find creative approaches and strategies for reducing bycatch, seabird interactions, and post-release mortality in federally managed fisheries.


Abe Williams, who was elected to the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association board last spring, has been selected as the new president as of September.

Williams fishes the F/V Crimson Fury, and is president of Nuna Resources, a nonprofit that supports sustainable resource development in rural Alaska, including fighting for an international solution to issues raised by the proposed Pebble Mine project.

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