June 15, 2011

Japanese Fishermen Find Radiation In Two Whales

Traces of radioactive caesium have been found by Japanese whale hunters in two cetaceans recently harpooned off its shores in the Pacific Ocean, a fisheries agency official told AFP on Wednesday.

Culled off the northern island of Hokkaido, the two minke whales showed readings of 31 becquerels and 24.3 becquerels of caesium per kilogram, the fisheries official claimed, adding that the cause may be related to the recent radiation leak from the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Despite a worldwide ban on the practice, whaling is allowed for Japan and continues under a loophole that allows killing the sea mammals for "scientific research". Whale meat, however, is sold openly in shops and restaurants.

Japan argues that whaling is an integral part of the island-nation's culture.

The radiation level is well below the Japanese maximum safe limit for seafood of 500 becquerels per kilogram. "There is no data available to compare whether the readings for radioactive materials are higher than normal," the agency spokesman explained.

"We will continue to monitor the development, as we do for all seafood and marine life that is caught off the Pacific coast."

Japanese marine experts as well as the general public have expressed fears that radioactive material in the ocean will concentrate among large marine creatures at the top of the food chain.

The radiation stems from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant which has leaked radioactive water into the Pacific since it was battered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, ABC News reports.

The Japanese government has banned fishing in areas near Fukushima. Local governments and fishing cooperatives conduct radiation screenings of seafood along the Pacific coast.