Bluefin Tuna Caught Near California Still Radioactive Years After Fukushima

02/21/2013 05:58 pm ET | Updated Feb 22, 2013

Bluefin tuna just can't catch a break. Weeks after it was reported that overfishing had reduced the Pacific population of the fish, which is popular in sushi bars, by over 96 percent, researchers have found trace levels of radiation still lingering in their flesh almost two years after the catastrophe at the nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan. And the 50 tuna they studied were all caught off the coast of California, 6,000 miles east of Japan, where they were born.

The tuna that registered the highest levels of radioactivity were those that migrated to California in 2011, soon after the accident, but those that migrated in 2012 also demonstrated above-normal levels of radiation. Monte Burke at Forbes writes that the results of the study suggest "there is still a high level of radiation in the waters near the Fukushima plant most likely because, as marine chemist, Ken Buessler, asserts, the plant is still leaking radiation into the ocean nearly two years later."

Yikes. Doctoral student Daniel Madigan, one of the chief authors of the study also did work showing that tuna were radioactive back in spring of 2012, so it's not like this is a new phenomenon. But it's alarming that radioactivity is still popping up. Not that it should be a complete surprise: Bluefin tuna can live to be up to 30 years old and, because they're near the top of the marine food chain, they're unusually prone to building up high levels of pollutants in their bodies.

The authors of the study emphasized that the levels of radiation found in the tuna remain "well below safety limits set by the most stringent government regulations" and pose little threat to human health -- as they did when radioactive tuna were found soon after the Fukushima accident. On the other hand, if you needed even more of a reason to avoid bluefin tuna, let this be it.

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