By Laine Welch
Alaska seafood is free of radiation stemming from Japan’s 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster.
That was the take-home message from the Alaska Department of Conservation to the State Senate Resources Committee at a recent hearing.
Citing information from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Pacific states — including Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington, as well as Health Canada — “all have demonstrated there are no levels of radiation that are of a public health concern,” said Marty Brewer, director of DEC’s Environmental Health Division.
She added that only small amounts of radiation have been detected from the reactor source.
“There has been detection of cesium that is reportedly from Fukushima, but at miniscule levels,” Brewer said.
DEC Commissioner Larry Hartig said programs in the Lower 48 are testing fish that swim between the Gulf of Alaska, the West Coast and Japan, and they have come up with a clean bill of health. The DEC is also monitoring marine debris washing ashore in Southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound, Hartig said.
None of the debris that has washed ashore anywhere in the U.S. has shown signs of radiation, so far.
Fishing gear experts are using fish behavior to take a bite out of unwanted salmon bycatch in trawl nets. Video cameras inside nets revealed several years ago that Alaska pollock and salmon behave very differently when captured. Salmon were able to swim against the strong flow within the net better than the pollock, said John Gauvin, a gear specialist who has worked closely with Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska trawl fleets for decades.
“You would see the salmon moving forward in the net at times, and you would see the pollock steadily dropping back, with some ability to move forward, but at a loss,” he explained. “They would move a little bit forward, and then move a lot back.”
Trawlers will soon begin field-testing a so-called, “over-and-under” net device to see how it performs.
“We are pretty excited about this device and will be doing testing this spring in the Gulf,” Gauvin said. “Then, hopefully — in the fall — in the Bering Sea.”
A “flapper” excluder device, used by many trawlers since 2012, has resulted in a 25-37 percent Chinook salmon escapement with very little loss of pollock. While it works well, Gauvin said the design is difficult to adopt widely into the fishery and takes a lot of fine tuning.
Finding “cleaner” gear that is affordable and adaptable will drive the future of our fisheries, Gauvin said.
“What is interesting to me today is that, in many ways, success in the fisheries is not so much what you catch, but what you don’t catch,” he mused. “Fishermen spend a lot of time figuring out how to avoid things they are not supposed to catch so they can continue to make a living.”
February is American Heart Month, and the role of seafood and heart health is being featured in a nationwide media blitz.
The American Heart Association has placed 1 million magazine inserts in major newspapers from Boston to Los Angeles, and they include full page ads about the importance of eating more seafood.
“The science is there to help all of us understand that eating seafood twice a week can be great for our heart health, but that message is just not getting out,” said Linda Cornish, executive director of the nonprofit Seafood Nutrition Partnership. The partnership promotes the twice-a-week message across the country. “So this is our first effort to work with health partners to bring a credible message to Americans. We are very excited about it.”
“I can see that people understand seafood is good for them,” she continued. “The hurdles come from knowing how to buy it and cook it, and understanding the different varieties of seafood they can include in their diet.”
Getting across those hurdles is especially important for women, (who do most home-food shopping). Heart disease is, by far, the No. 1 killer of American women.
Cornish said the Seafood Nutrition Partnership is also testing outreach messages to see how they resonate with consumers, and balance out negative messages.
“What you are seeing in terms of the different messages on mercury and toxicity is very well-founded; it’s just that you hear more of those messages versus the good news on seafood,” Cornish said. “So, our initiative is to try and get more positive messages out about seafood and provide a more balanced view.”
The Fishing Family Photo Contest from the Alaska Seafood marketing Institute attracted more than 700 entries, and now it’s time to vote for your favorites.
Categories include Best Family or Kids, Best Old-School or Throwback, Best Fish, Best Scenic, Best Boat, Best Humor and Best Action photo.
The fan favorite wins two Alaska Airlines tickets, while other top winners get iPads. The winning images may be used in ASMI’s promotions in 21 countries
To vote, “like” Alaska Seafood on Facebook at www.facebook.com/alaskaseafood and locate the contest app in the upper right; or, visit http://bit.ly/1n7YVyP.
Each visitor may vote one time, per photo, per day. Voting ends at midnight on Feb. 17.
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