Fisheries experts are calling for long-term testing of West Coast salmon for radiation.
Because salmon spend years in the ocean, they don’t believe that the sampling conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency of fish returning to B.C. last summer was enough. That sampling was undertaken in the wake of the March 2011 nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan.
"I don’t think a one-off sort of test would be appropriate," Stan Proboszcz, a fisheries biologist with the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, told the Straight in a phone interview. "Salmon migrate very long distances, so we need to take that into account when we do the monitoring."
The CFIA announced on August 19, 2011, that it was going to examine locally caught salmon for radiation. This came a day after the Straight quoted high-profile marine biologist Alexandra Morton talking about the need to check sockeye salmon returning that summer.
However, Morton also noted at the time that she suspects "this generation of sockeye were out of the way, probably on their way home" when the disaster occurred. The CFIA later reported that as of September 15, 2011, the 12 samples of tuna and salmon tested for radioactivity were "below Health Canada action levels".
In a recent phone interview with the Straight, Morton asserted that more testing should be done. "I think the public deserves to know," she said. "Not just salmon but really all of the fish."
But it doesn’t look like consumers will be getting word from the CFIA whether or not they’ll be eating radioactive salmon this year.
"We continue to do our regular type of testing [for toxins, impurities, and chemical residues] in conjunction with DFO [Fisheries and Oceans Canada]," Ottawa-based CFIA spokesperson Guy Gravelle told the Straight by phone. "Any specific testing for radioactivity or anything of that sort…I don’t believe there’s any plan to do anything specific."
Grand Chief Doug Kelly, president of the Sto:lo Tribal Council, isn’t happy about this. Salmon is a central part of the Sto:lo people’s life and culture.
"It could be fish this year that could have been impacted," Kelly told the Straight by phone. "It could be fish next year. And even the year after, right up into the year 2015."