Marine biologist Alexandra Morton sees a need to test returning sockeye salmon for radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“There was a large release of radioactive material in the water and in the air,” Morton told the Straight in a phone interview from her home on Malcolm Island. “I suspect that this generation of sockeye were out of the way, probably on their way home. But my sense of this is we need to test everywhere we can. As soon as I heard about this, I covered my gardens. I suspect that government doesn’t know how to deal with this, and in the face of it they just don’t want us to know.”
An estimated four million sockeye have started coming back to the Fraser River, and people in the fishing industry are catching them.
Ernie Crey, fisheries advisor to the Sto:lo Tribal Council, agrees with Morton. “I think it’s a practical idea,” Crey told the Straight by phone. Asked if the returning fish are safe, he said: “I don’t know. This is a good question.”
However, Crey doesn’t expect the federal government to go ahead and test salmon for radiation. “That’s not something DFO [Fisheries and Oceans Canada] is going to voluntarily do or Health Canada or Environment Canada,” he said.
Responding by email to a query by the Straight, Fisheries and Oceans spokesperson Lara Sloan wrote that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency “would be responsible for deciding what fish for consumption would need to be tested for food safety”.
CFIA spokesperson Mark Clarke said the agency could not comment by the Straight ’s deadline.
According to Morton, sockeye are known to go as far out as the Bering Sea, and from there, swim back across the Pacific Ocean. “So they have to turn homewards at some point…but also they’re right out in the open Pacific…and they go on a big circle there,” she said. “They’re eating plankton that’s eating smaller things.”