Exploring Albacore Stock Structure in the North Pacific with Radionuclide Tracers (2014-16)

Lorenzo Ciannelli
Oregon State University
College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences
104 CEOAS Administration Building
Corvallis, Oregon 97331
Phone: 541-737-3142

Co-PI: Anthony Jason Phillips, OSU
Associate PI: Delvan Neville, OSU

The 2011 tsunami in Japan and subsequent Fukushima nuclear plant catastrophe sparked public health and safety concerns about eating Pacific seafood. The disaster also opened up an opportunity to examine migration routes of large pelagic fish across the Pacific.

Dr. Ciannelli and his research team are looking for the Fukushima radioactive signature in North Pacific albacore tuna, an ecologically and commercially important species. Albacore are large, live near the surface of the water in the pelagic zone and migrate across the Pacific Ocean, making the fish are a likely candidate to absorb and carry traces of the specific radionuclides released by the Fukushima plant.

By testing radionuclide levels, the project seeks to determine whether there are one or two sub-stocks of North Pacific albacore, a subject of long debate. The research team will compare its data with radioecology research logbooks on albacore compiled in the 1960s, which will be made electronically available to the public. Through collaborations with research colleagues from California, comparisons will also be made against tuna caught in their southernmost range of distribution.

This work also provides insight into food safety. While the team has detected minute levels of radionuclides in previous albacore samples, and considers it unlikely that unsafe levels will be seen, continued monitoring is important to ensure that the fish remain safe to eat. This research project is of high importance and can help ease concerns about food safety by informing consumers about the minimal risks from consuming albacore.

Strategic Plan Focus Areas: Healthy Coastal Ecosystems and Habitats, Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture, Environmental Literacy and Workforce Development

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