Your Connection To Jazz, Blues and NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Seattle Fishmonger: No Need To Worry About Radiation In Pacific Salmon

Scientists have said it's safe to eat fish caught in the Pacific Ocean in the wake of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, but rumors continue to circulate on the Internet. 

To quell these false claims and put consumers at ease, a Seattle fish company has conducted independent tests to prove Pacific salmon is safe for consumption.

Pete Knutson is a co-owner and founder of Loki Fish Company. He and his son sell their wild-caught Alaskan salmon directly to consumers at farmers markets in Seattle.

Knutson says a few weeks ago, his son convinced him they had to do something.

“[My son] Dylan was the first one to suggest that we do the testing,” he said. “I said, ‘Come on, it’s 1,200 bucks. We don’t have that kind of money.’ And he goes, ‘No, Dad, I’m down there, dealing with customers all the time. You can’t believe what’s on the Internet.”

The company tested a random sample of five species of salmon harvested in Puget Sound and Southeast Alaska near Ketchikan last year. Knutson says the samples came back free of the major bi-products associated with a nuclear meltdown, namely iodine 131 and two types of cesium, 134 and 137. 

Knutson says the two cesium types have a half-life of two and thirty years, respectively, so it would show up on tests if the fish were contaminated. But that wasn't the case; Knutson says his results confirmed his hunch all along — that his salmon is safe. 

“The results came back great,” he said. “There is residual radioactivity from 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s nuclear testing or Chernobyl, but the thing is you’re not going to find any food on the planet that doesn’t have some form of manmade impact. But this is about as pure as you can get.”

After he published the test results on the company’s Facebook page, he says he got about 6,000 hits and some national news coverage. But Knudsen says the company is still getting two to three emails a day from worried consumers, as well as people thanking him for doing the tests.

“You know, I’m not like a fisherman that just sells his fish to a company boat and never sees it again,” he said. “I see the people that are going to eat my stuff. I see the kids that are going to eat my stuff that night. And so it’s an ethical thing, too, for us, you know. If we’re going to sell food, we want to make sure it’s in good shape.”

Earlier tests showed that tuna, which migrates much closer to the radioactive fallout, is also safe.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.