It sounds counterintuitive, but the radiation in the tuna may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the species.
Bluefin tuna, found in the Atlantic and northern and southern Pacific, are among the most imperiled fish species on the planet. Though the U.S. government recently—and somewhat controversially—refused to list Atlantic Bluefin as an official “endangered species,” they did categorize the fish as a “species of concern.” The Atlantic Bluefin population has dwindled by as much as 80% since the 1970s, mainly because of overfishing. (Southern Pacific Bluefin are also in peril.) All species Bluefin are among the most prized table fish on the globe, especially among sushi aficionados who pay up to $24 for one single piece of the fish. Last year, the U.S. government did petition CITES to protect the Atlantic Bluefin. But the effort was blocked by Japan, where much of the world’s Bluefin end up at market.
If the governments can’t help, maybe bad publicity will. Nicholas Fisher, the study’s co-author and a marine biologist at Stony Brook University in New York, says when he first saw the levels of radiation in the fish, caught off of San Diego, “my first thought was ‘this will do more for the conservation of this endangered animal than nearly anything else could.’”
Fisher and the study’s lead author, Daniel Madigan of Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, were both quick to point out that the levels of radiation found in the tuna shouldn’t be a problem for humans. There are natural levels of radioactivity in the tuna, and Fukushima has only added the slightest amount more. (The report can be found here.) “But people are often anxious about radioactivity,” says Fisher.