Fukushima Fallout: Japan's Radiated Whales

Sal holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.

Two of 17 minke whales caught in the waters off the coast of Hokkaida, Japan exhibit traces of radioactive cesium, presumably from leaks at the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

It is believed that the whales are the first to have been affected since the earthquake-tsunami combo struck the plant on March 11.

The level of radiation found is about one-20th of the legal limit, prompting officials to declare the meat safe for consumption.

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A harpooned minke whale and her calf are dragged inside the Japanese whaling vessel Yushin Marin No. 2 in 2008. (Photo: Ho New / Reuters)

The Associated Press reports:

"The levels are far below the limit, and the meat from the catch is safe for consumption," official Kosei Takekoshi said.

One of the minkes had a cesium reading of 31 becquerels per kilogram, and the other 24.3 becquerels, compared to the legal limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram for highly migratory marine products.

The 17 whales were caught off the shores of Kushiro city—a main coastal whaling hub - during an April 25-June 10 expedition.

The agency has not previously surveyed radiation in whales, so no comparison is available before and after the Fukushima crisis.

The government has banned fishing around the coastal nuclear plant. Local government and fisheries. Officials have been monitoring radiation in seafood along the coast weekly.

Amid concern that certain whale and dolphin species had been hunted to the precipice of extinction, the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986. Japan soon resumed hunting under an IWC clause that allows for the killing of whales for scientific research. Conservationists dispute these killings because the whale meat is sold for consumption in Japan.

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