A few nights ago the original “Jaws” was playing on AMC. It brought back creepy, nightmarish memories of the summer of 1975, when as a 6-year old child I stared wide-eyed at the iconic poster and imagined what would happen when the giant shark finally reached the clueless swimmer above. Although I was too young to see the movie, just the poster and hype alone were enough to taint my summer swimming experiences for years. “Jaws” was everywhere… everyone saw it, and everyone talked about it. It was incredible that in a movie where the ‘bad guy’ was barely even seen, that it could strike such fear in the old and young alike.
The Great White Shark is a predator unlike any other in the sea. He stalks his victims, and occasionally will mistake a human for a seal at the surface. Sometimes he sneaks in for a bite before the attack, to make sure his prey tastes good. Other times, he strikes with such massive force from below that his victim will be thrown into the air before being dragged under. Occasionally a lucky swimmer or surfer will get away needing just stitches, or with the unfortunate loss of an arm or leg to show for their encounter. I was horrified to learn a few weeks after vacationing in Avila Beach, California that a swimmer was killed by a Great White shark. For someone who lives in Michigan and has spent very little time in the Pacific Ocean except for a few occasions, this attack at the same beach were I had swam only a few weeks before scared the living crap out of me. The odds of a shark attack are very rare, regardless of how often you may think about Jaws while in the ocean. But since then, I have gone back…and I swam, surfed, and kayaked with abandon, knowing the odds were in my favor that my beach-going experience was unlikely to include being a snack for a Great White.
But since the Great Tohoku Earthquake on March 11th, 2011 – there is a new predator in the Pacific. This one is invisible and strikes with an insidious sickness that permeates the activities of daily life. It’s called radiation, and it has been released as a slow moving shadow of death from the destroyed reactors of Fukushima Daiichi, for 4 years straight. It’s on the surface, in the currents, and in the storms systems generated out of the ocean. It was in the air too, in massive quantities for months after the accident, and slightly less since. But unlike the hype of Jaws, this predator is rarely talked about, and certainly never seen on sonar. It is absorbed into the plankton and kelp, and it is taken in by little fish – which are in turn eaten by bigger ones.
Radiation effects have been observed since the summer of 2011 when lazy seals relaxing on the ice floes in British Columbia and Alaska started breathing it in, and ate it up in the fish they caught. By late summer the seals started washing up on rocky beaches with missing fur, bleeding from their orifices, and dying in huge numbers. This “Unusual Mortality Event” also affected polar bears and walruses, and NOAA gave chase to its cause but in a half-hearted effort which was more of a PR event then a true investigation. Unusual sickness and mortality has been a problem every year since in California, as the radiation tide makes its way down the coast. This year alone, experts say over 35,000 baby seals could be affected.
“This phenomenon is unprecedented in scale”
In the movie Jaws and its many sequels, the chief of police knows something is wrong, but is laughed at and even fired for trying to keep people out of the water. His presentation of facts is met with criticism and ridicule, as a rogue shark, and a big one at that, would be incredibly bad for the business of a touristy beach town. The radiation predator is much the same, as nuked sushi and radioactive waves spell big trouble for both the billion dollar seafood and tourism industry. The people who have tried to warn about it are called crazy, and trolled endlessly on social media by industry shills. Which is understandable, considering how much they have to lose. From seafood restaurants to west coast travel, if people knew the threat and its affect on health, they wouldn’t be eating the fish, they wouldn’t be swimming in the ocean, and they most certainly wouldn’t be letting their children do either. And then another looming issue presents itself: what about all the nuclear reactors sitting on fault lines in our own country? Are we just waiting for the next earthquake, ice storm, hurricane, or other event to have a sequel to the ongoing disaster in Japan? Do we really need a Fukushima over here to finally wake people up? Would you allow a Great White to swim in your local pool?
The starfish, oysters, sea urchins, crayfish, sardines, seabirds, owls, pelicans, and even orcas are now showing signs of possible health effects from radiation, too. The effects of radiation exposure are as surreptitious as a silent predator, but with fairly predictable results, starting with weakened immunities leading to opportunistic infections from various organisms. In mammals with fur, hair loss is evident. Lesions affect the skin and mucous membranes. In the rare event a necropsy is actually performed, tumors in the brains, livers, and other organs have been found, but never revealed in mainstream news. And in the tracking of seal pups and orca calves, not only are they not thriving, but reproduction seems to have ceased altogether for some species. Which is generally what we would expect from poor unfortunate creatures who have been swimming, eating, and living 24/7 in a radioactive sea.
Research from the US Army in the 1950’s during atmospheric testing taught us that plankton concentrates radioactivity thousands of times higher then what is found in surrounding seawater. This effect is again bio-concentrated when consumed by another organism, and so on and so on. This is the basis for the food chain. But rather than test the plankton, Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute, who shares a cozy relationship with the US Government, has insisted that seawater testing is the best way to asses the extent of Fukushima contamination in the Pacific, despite the protests from activists who know better. Wood’s Hole has even gone as far as enlisting incognizant beach-goers along the west coast to collect seawater for them, which they will test for $500.- per sample, at the cost of the oblivious collectee. This is outrageous, preposterous, and amounts to grand larceny, but it has been going on for months, and these helpful citizens who think they are doing good are actually being grossly misled by this Institute and its ridiculous claims that they are scientifically assessing the extent of contamination along the west coast beaches, using a method they know will be far less than what is really represented in the food chain.
During the horrid years of Atmospheric Testing, when the US and other world governments nuked soldiers, sea life, and downwind communities with reckless abandon, Dr Ernest Sternglass took an honest approach to determine the extent that nuclear bombs had on all living things – everything from unborn babies to ocean fish. Basically every living thing that contains dividing cells was affected – and that is still, and always will be, the reality of having man-made radiation on-the-loose in our environment. That reality can be difficult for one to reconcile mentally, but Dr Sternglass was a gifted writer and teacher who was able to bridge the gap of understanding between nuclear science and the effects of radiation on health. He was met with harsh criticism for his tireless work, and had to fight his way through a sea of naysayers intent on protecting the nuclear industry and the military industrial complex. I had hoped to interview him for the 4 year anniversary of Fukushima, but sadly, Dr Sternglass passed away on February 12th of 2015. In a landmark research paper which was never published until now, he had calculated that a 1% reduction in ocean fish population was caused by fission product releases per 2.5 kt yield from nuclear weapons. In comparison, the Hiroshima bomb was 15 kilotons. Fukushima has released, by at least one estimation, 400-500 x the Hiroshima bomb into the atmosphere, and another 400-500 x in the Pacific Ocean, according to Hiroaki Koide, Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering, Assistant Professor at the Kyoto University Research Institute, and a Nuclear Waste Management & Safety Expert. He said at a presentation on the second anniversary of the Fukushima accident:
“The cesium-137 that was released into the atmosphere by Units 1 through 3 was 168 times that of the Hiroshima bomb, according to the Japanese government report to the IAEA, an international organization which promotes nuclear power.
I myself believe this is probably an underestimate, and two or three times that amount, that is, 400 to 500 times the amount of cesium-137 of the Hiroshima atomic bomb has already been dispersed into the atmosphere.
At the same time, the radioactive materials that were dissolved in water were flowing into the ground, then out into the ocean.
I believe almost the same amount of radioactive material released into the air have probably flowed into the ocean.”
Keep in mind, this is only one of the radioactive elements and isotopes released by this disaster; there are upwards of 2000 others that have not been studied or quantified. Radioactive water has continued to pour into the Pacific, and will continue for decades to come. I have also heard estimations that are far, far higher than what Hiroaki Koide proposed 2 years ago. In fact, they were several hundreds of thousands of times higher.
So for now, on this 4th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident, we wait. And we see. And we read. And we tally. We extrapolate. We estimate. And then we wait some more. By the time people know the truth, it will be too late. In Jaws, you knew people would die, and it would be ugly and hard to watch. Fukushima is much the same, just way worse. As cancer rates continue to skyrocket and decimated sea life continues to wash up on our beautiful coast, the uninformed masses will continue to book their vacations, and gobble up sushi like it’s going out of style. Which, it should be – at least if it was caught in the Pacific.
The fore-mentioned research paper, “Fallout and Reproduction of Ocean Fish Populations” by Dr Ernest Sternglass can be viewed here, which had been archived since 1971 by his dear friend and colleague, Dr Leuren Moret.
The Great White shark is nothing compared to the nightmare of Fukushima. How I long for those good old days when the only thing to fear in the ocean, was Jaws.~RC