First Nations call for radiation tests via Coast Reporter

B.C.’s grand chief and First Nation leaders on the Sunshine Coast are supporting a call for Ottawa to “systematically and properly” study the full impact of Fukushima radiation on the West Coast fishery.

Radiation from the March 2011 nuclear accident arrived off the B.C. coast last year, Robin Brown, ocean sciences division manager with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), said Tuesday.

“According to our observations, the radiation from Fukushima was detected in B.C. coastal waters in June 2013. Barely detectable, but detectable,” Brown said.

Although the federal government tested food samples, including some domestic fish species, in 2011 and early 2012, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said Wednesday that “further testing of imported or domestic food products for the presence of radioactive material is not required.”

Last month, Tahlton Central Council president Annita McPhee wrote national Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, urging him to press Ottawa for action amid growing concerns by members of the Tahltan Nation in northwestern B.C.


“Some people are not eating their fish because they’re scared. Some people don’t want to feed it to their kids. We don’t want to get cancer. We already have lots of cancer up in our area. I mean, lots,” McPhee said.

“The Tahltan people have been very concerned about what’s going on. We get our fish from the Stikine River, but it comes from the Pacific Ocean,” she said. “As First Nations, we’ve got to come together and address this, force the government’s hand. We have a right to know if our fish is safe to eat.”

B.C. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip echoed that view, calling the federal government’s inaction “highly irresponsible.

“I think it’s certainly a legitimate concern,” Phillip said Monday. “Other jurisdictions — other countries — realize there is a very real potential for contamination. Unfortunately, Canada doesn’t seem to be taking any steps whatsoever to acknowledge this as a potential threat.”

Instead, Phillip noted, DFO has been downsized, representing “a significant disinvestment” in the West Coast fishery.

“It’s not only unacceptable, but it’s very negligent of the government of Canada,” he said.


The report, released during the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES) annual meeting in Nanaimo, presented two widely different study models. One model suggested ocean contamination would exceed levels of maximum fallout from nuclear tests and previous accidents such as Chernobyl, while the other model said levels would equal the amount of contamination that existed in 1990.

“These levels are still well below maximum permissible concentrations in drinking water for cesium-137,” the report said. “Not an environmental or human health radiological threat!”

Despite that caveat, the report cited “many reasons for study,” including human health and marine biota.

Brown, one of the co-authors of the report, acknowledged that neither study factored in ongoing discharges from Fukushima after the March 2011 release.

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