Photo: How radioactive is our ocean?

If you are concerned about Fukushima radiation and gaining a better understanding of the spread of radiation to the West Coast, you may want to propose a new sampling location (Credit:USFWS/Southeast)

By Scott Wallace, Senior Research Scientist

Since the devastating tsunami and earthquake that triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster nearly three years ago, we've been asked many questions by concerned Canadians about the spread of radiation to West Coast waters, ecosystems and food sources.

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David Suzuki has written articles that summarize the credible scientific literature as it emerges:

We've noticed, however, an enormous gap between the public's level of concern and the availability of radiation monitoring data from our West Coast ocean. In fact, no government agency in Canada or elsewhere in North America is monitoring the spread of the radioactive particles originating at Fukushima.

This gap can lead people to non-credible sources of (mis)information, which have been spreading like wildfire through social media. Scientists at the renowned Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have now filled the gap with a crowd-sourced citizen science project called Our Radioactive Ocean. The David Suzuki Foundation partnered with WHOI to support two sites where citizen scientists are engaged in seawater sampling: one on Haida Gwaii and the other on Vancouver Island. Samples are sent to WHOI for analysis with results posted to Our Radioactive Ocean website along with other updates about Fukushima.

Each sample costs several hundred dollars to collect, transport and analyze. If you are concerned about Fukushima radiation and gaining a better understanding of the spread of radiation to the West Coast, you may want to propose a new sampling location or show your support by contributing to this effort through a donation at this link.

Your contribution will help us all better understand the levels of radiation in our ocean waters. The measurements will help scientists to compile a baseline for radiation counts as the particles from Japan begin to reach us on the Pacific West Coast.

January 31, 2014

Post a comment


Feb 01, 2014
6:59 AM

I studied radioactive waste management in graduate school. Is there anything I can do to help?

Feb 01, 2014
3:55 PM

Iv really been concerned about this for awhile now. Where is going to be least affected and most affected areas and what can we do to minimize its affects? Thank you for providing this website, and being such a good leader, everything we do makes a difference even when we feel like giving up or as if no one is impacted. This issue is very real and people need to realize the devastation of the events that can take place if we do nothing. Foreign companies are not aloud in japan currently to help with disaster. We must protect the land that we have, why is it this way even earth could be paradise everyone happy. Its about time for a revolution.

Feb 09, 2014
1:09 PM

Do you think this radioactive ocean is the reason for all of these natural ingredients being found to contain heavy metals? The latest story regarding Garden of Life Organic Raw Products containing crazy amounts of tungsten, lead, and many other horrible toxins. If you haven’t heard about the uncovering of the heavy metals in some very popular products have a look at this

Feb 11, 2014
1:27 AM

I am a Vancouver Island resident who fishes locally. Can local fishers donate catches for sampling? Dare I not BBQ. I can share with many boats.

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