What’s in that fish you caught?

Auckland City Harbour News - - OPINION -

Dr Robert Mann never ducks a scrap.

He is the co-au­thor of the NZ Govern­ment sub­mis­sion to the World Court in the law­suit against French nu­clear test­ing in the Pa­cific and a found­ing com­mit­tee mem­ber of the New Zealand Foun­da­tion for Peace Stud­ies.

Now re­tired as a univer­sity lec­turer in bio­chem­istry and en­vi­ron­men­tal stud­ies, he’s been a sci­en­tific ad­viser to our Cab­i­net min­is­ters.

He served for eight years on the En­vi­ron­men­tal Coun­cil Work­ing Party on En­ergy and 11 years on the Toxic Sub­stances Board.

In­evitably, he’s got Fukushima in his sights. And he’s not the only one. Ja­pan’s Tepco com­pany of­fi­cials reg­u­larly sug­gest all is well at Dai­ichi, say­ing ra­di­a­tion ef­fects are mostly lo­calised and things should go back to nor­mal in the fore­see­able fu­ture.

But sci­en­tists and jour­nal­ists have con­cluded the sit­u­a­tion is crit­i­cal, get­ting worse and in­creas­ingly dan­ger­ous to hu­man­ity.

One fact: Fif­teen tuna caught off the coast of Cal­i­for­nia, all had ra­di­a­tion con­tam­i­na­tion above and be­yond nor­mal Ce­sium-134 and ce­sium-137, which the fish were con­tam­i­nated with.

Ce­sium does not sink to the ocean floor. It con­tam­i­nates the sea at all lev­els where fish swim through it, in­gest it, or eat or­gan­isms that have al­ready in­gested it.

In­ter­est­ingly, the sci­en­tists who tested the fish didn’t ex­pect to find con­tam­i­na­tion and were sadly proven wrong.

Read this lineup of Robert Mann’s deep con­cerns – and other ex­pert opin­ion.

Robert Mann: ‘‘ From the start of my ac­tivism against 2,4,5-T (1971) I have steadily in­toned my slo­gan – lack of ev­i­dence does not equal proof of safety.

‘‘Yet dom­i­na­tion of pub­lic dis­course on Fukushima pol­lu­tion continues along the older lines – out of sight, out of mind and what you don’t know won’t hurt you.

‘‘Will the New Zealand me­dia ask the Na­tional Ra­di­a­tion Lab­o­ra­tory (an arm of the Min­istry of Health) what ra­dioac­tiv­ity tests of New Zealand ma­rine or­gan­isms and surf spray are be­ing made around our coast?’’ He’s right. If not, why not? ‘‘In the early 1970s, pos­si­ble con­tam­i­na­tion of South Pa­cific foods, ma­rine and land was a main ground of sci­en­tists’ ob­jec­tions to French nu­clear tests just south of the equa­tor.

‘‘As a sci­en­tific leader in that cam­paign, I’m ap­palled at the fail­ure, so far, of the New Zealand me­dia to in­ves­ti­gate the fate of Fukushima pol­lu­tion. Some fish, like tuna, swim thou­sands of miles in the Pa­cific.’’

Dr Ken Buessler is head sci­en­tist at Woods Hole in Mas­sachusetts, one of the world’s top ocean sci­ence in­sti­tu­tions. He’s been study­ing ground­wa­ter and ocean sam­ples in and around Fukushima.

His ver­dict: ‘‘What we don’t re­ally know is how fast and how much is be­ing trans­ported across the Pa­cific. Nu­mer­ous mod­els show that, while the ocean di­lutes ra­di­a­tion, pock­ets and streams of con­cen­trated ra­di­a­tion may still hit the West Coast of North Amer­ica.’’

And Cal­i­for­nia State Long Beach bi­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor Steven Man­ley: ‘‘People should know the amount of ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial in kelp. I think the amount will be small but small doesn’t mean in­signif­i­cant.

‘‘It’s im­per­a­tive that we mon­i­tor this coastal for­est for any ra­dioac­tive con­tam­i­nants ar­riv­ing this year in the ocean cur­rents from Fukushima.’’

Many govern­ment of­fi­cials have, un­for­tu­nately, fallen for what one ex­pert has called ‘‘voodoo sci­ence’’ – pro­moted by the nu­clear in­dus­try, that ‘‘you get more ra­di­a­tion from eat­ing ba­nanas or from back­ground ra­di­a­tion’’.

The re­sponse when Ken Bues­seler took his con­cerns about fail­ure to mon­i­tor to US de­part­ments – En­ergy, Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion, En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion – they all said it’s not their re­spon­si­bil­ity, health and safety is­sue.

I won­der what the Welling­ton ver­sion of that side­step is?

Ask your MP for his/her view.

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Photo: REUTERS

Nu­clear nightmare: Staff and me­dia get ready to in­spect the Fukushima Dai­ichi nu­clear power plant this month – three years af­ter it was crip­pled by the 2011 tsunami that trig­gered the world’s worst nu­clear cri­sis since Ch­er­nobyl.

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