Eels. (Photo: Stockfile)
Cesium findings in eel coverup reported
Monday, May 20, 2013, 04:00 (GMT + 9)
A scientist has admitted having detected radioactive cesium in eels caught in a boundary river between the Tokyo and Chiba prefectures in March and having informed authorities promptly. Yet the expert claims the Tokyo and Chiba local governments took no action for nearly two months.
Officials from both governments explained that no independent study was carried out because the eels were not part of a commercial fishery and thus the fishers were probably not planning on selling the catch.
The governments also chose not to let the public know about the detection of the cesium even though local residents may have been eating affected eels, The Asahi Shimbun reports.
Back in March, a woman caught an eel from the Edogawa river in Tokyo's Katsushika Ward and sent the eel to Hideo Yamazaki, a professor of environmental analysis at Kinki University in Osaka Prefecture, out of concern over reports of cesium having accumulated downstream in the river. Yamazaki used a germanium semiconductor detector and found that the eel had 147.5 Bq of radioactive cesium per kg, compared to the Japanese government limit of 100 Bq.
Yamazaki contacted the Fisheries Agency that month hoping it would launch an official investigation. The Fisheries Agency did report the information to the Tokyo metropolitan and Chiba prefectural governments, but both refused to authorise official studies, The Japan Daily Press reports.
"Basically, only fish that enter the distribution network is subject to studies. Besides, the eel fishing season does not start until summer," an official with the Tokyo metropolitan government's fisheries division justified.
But a Fisheries Agency official said the two local governments were asked to conduct a study because eels are being eaten by humans anyway.
The Agency began its own study this week using Yamazaki’s samples, who conducted further studies on four eels caught by the same woman in April and May in the same river. These eels had cesium levels between 97.4 Bq and 129.6 Bq per kg, with three of them exceeding the central government’s cesium levels limit.
Meanwhile, no official agency has confirmed that eels exist in the river exceeding central government radiation standards.
Yukio Koibuchi, an associate professor of coastal environmental studies, said Yamazaki’s finding may have been a kind of exception involving the convergence of various factors: fish living in rivers tend to ingest cesium and eels eat them, plus the area where the eels were caught was near the mouth of the river, which is where cesium tends to build up.
“But, there is a need for further careful research,” Koibuchi added.
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