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Radiation fears rise in LA over Japan-imported fish

April 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Jon Kagawa's family has been in the fish market business in Glendale since 1956. But after so many years, they have stopped purchasing certain fish from Japan.

"Japanese hamachi, which is a sushi grade product, because of the concerns there is no way we're going to carry a product such as that right now," he said.

The concerns are over possible radiation contamination in the fish.

Radioactive water has been pouring into the Pacific Ocean from the damage Fukushima nuclear plant.

Tiny fish were caught in Japan with unsafe levels of iodine and cesium in waters south of the plant.

"Some of the fish that are feeding there may be picking up some radiation and we don't want to be harvesting that here in the United States if they do," said Vidar Wespestad, a scientist with the American Fisherman's Research Foundation.

Torpedo-shaped tuna leave the waters off Japan every spring, swimming at speeds of 50 mph to the waters off Oregon and Washington, arriving late summer.

Before it gets there, it may well have spent time in some of the most radioactive water on earth.

Some in the fishing industry are now urging the government to test the fish when they arrive.

Scientists who've studied the effects of radiation on fish say cesium accumulates in muscle tissue, and migration patterns should be studied because different size fish are affected differently.

"There is a potential for genetic damage to these tunas for instance, as well as impacts on their reproductive abilities," said Timothy Mousseau, a professor of biological sciences at the University of South Carolina.

Customers dining on seafood at Fish King, Kagawa's fish market, on Tuesday night had little concern about radiation contamination in the fish they consumed.

"There are going to be a lot of people that have their reservation, but for the moment, I feel that things are safe until further notice," said Isabel Garcia of Alhambra.