You may have seen the news last week—derived from a new paper in PNAS—that juvenile bluefin tuna were found off the California coast, carrying detectable levels of radionuclides from the Fukushima Daichi disaster last year. In addition to the inherent interest in a story like this, the authors are at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station and Stony Brook’s SoMAS, two places I have spent and will soon spend a lot of time, which caught my notice. Deep Sea News had a good breakdown of this ruckus on Friday; the takeaway is that the radiation was detectable, but not hazardous. This point didn’t seem to sink in at the press office at Stony Brook, though:
The actual press release from Stony Brook makes it clear that there is no health risk posed by these tuna, but it’s buried behind a picture of a line of tuna swimming into a radioactive bullseye over a glowing-green Japan. Contrast this with Stanford’s slightly more restrained press release, which emphasizes that the radioactivity is very low-level. Not sure that there’s a larger lesson to be drawn here, other than that it’s another example of the science news cycle.
My favorite piece so far on this story is from Carl Safina, the scientist / conservationist / writer and Stony Brook affiliate. He wrote a column in HuffPo on Saturday, where he pointed out that mercury and overfishing are far bigger problems for people and bluefin than radiation. Read that one here.