DEC to State Senate: Fukushima Radiation Not a Risk to Alaska's Fish
Thursday, January 23 2014
The state Senate Resources Committee got an overview Wednesday of how Alaska is dealing with potential impacts of radiation from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and tsunami in Japan.
Environmental Conservation commissioner Larry Hartig told committee members that his department is monitoring marine debris washing ashore in Southeast Alaska and the Prince William Sound.
"For now, we have a lot more debris than we used to have that came in from Japan, and Alaska got more than its share of it," he said. "Most of it’s been just solid waste -- it hasn’t been anything that’s what we would deem as hazardous waste."
He said the DEC doesn’t have a separate program to keep an eye out for radiation in the debris. Since it flows here via California and Washington, he said federal programs in those states have it covered.
"They have been monitoring for radiation, and they’re not seeing any kind of levels of human concern," he said. "So when we look at this, there hasn’t been a driving need in Alaska to try to institute a program, particularly where we’d be starting it from scratch."
Committee members wanted reassurance that Alaska’s fish stocks weren’t at risk, either. Hartig said the programs in the Lower 48 are testing fish that swim between the Gulf of Alaska, the West Coast and Japan, and they’re sure the fish are safe to eat.
"It worries me, frankly, when you see speculation, because we sell our fish in the international market, and there’s people that would love to discourage Alaska fish," he said. "We’ve got to be careful when we throw things out there that we have an industry that’s dependent on the reputation of our fish."
He said they’re working with other groups in the state to reassure buyers that Alaskan fish aren’t contaminated.
Hartig’s presentation was part of a committee overview of all of DEC’s programs. It was the committee’s first meeting of the new legislative session.