Tuna safe to eat despite traces of radiation found



WESTPORT, Wash. - Traces of radiation have been found in tuna caught off the Washington coast, but experts say that the fish is safe to eat.


Tuna in the Pacific Northwest is a $41 million business, and local fishermen take in half of the catch.


KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Chris Legeros spoke with seafood sellers in Westport, who hope customers understand there are no health risks.


Seller Rich Brenenstahl said almost three-quarters of the fish he sells at his floating market are fresh, frozen and canned Albacore tuna. 


When he heard researchers at Oregon State University found minute traces of radiation in fish caught off the West Coast, Brenenstahl was concerned about the business.


“Is it going to hurt my industry?” questioned Brenenstahl. “Absolutely. I mean, who wants to eat anything radioactive?”


KIRO 7 checked with the university and learned the levels are far below anything that would pose a risk to humans.


Scientists confirmed that the radiation came from a crippled nuclear reactor in Japan.


The traces of radiation are cesium-134, and came from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which was damaged by the tsunami in Japan. Migrating tuna were exposed to it before travelling 6,000 miles to our coast.


Scientist Delvan Neville said the radiation levels would have to be at least a thousand times higher before there are concerns about consuming the fish.


“There’s nothing to be concerned about at this stage. You get a larger dose in a few seconds on an airplane than eating the highest level fish we’ve seen,” said Neville.


Brenenstahl isn’t worried about the fish.


Charter skipper Rhett Weber realized small amounts of radiation are already present in the environment and in bodies.


“That’s pretty ridiculous,” said Weber. “I don’t eat that, my family doesn’t eat that much. Does anybody eat that much? I doubt it.”


Tuna samples that were tested in Oregon are also being sent to the Washington Office of Radiation Protection.


The Washington State Health Department is confirming the results found by researchers in Oregon.