• Sitka Sound Science Center presentation will shed light on impacts of Fukushima radiation in the Pacific Ocean

cooperFukushima

People living along the Pacific Coast, including in Sitka and Southeast Alaska, have been wondering about the impacts of radiation in the food supply ever since the March 2011 earthquake in Japan and Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant meltdown.

Dr. Lee Cooper of the University of Maryland, a Scientist in Residency Fellow at the Sitka Sound Science Center, will discuss the current state of the science on Fukushima radiation and its likely impact on the Gulf of Alaska during a brown-bag lunch presentation from 12:30-1:30 p.m. on Friday, March 14, at the Sitka Pioneer Home Chapel. Bring your lunch and questions to the presentation, which is sponsored by the Sitka Sound Science Center and the National Science Foundation.

According to the Sitka Sound Science Center:

It is projected that dissolved contaminants, particularly the radioactive isotopes of cesium, 137Cs and 134Cs from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power in Japan, will reach Southeast Alaska this year.  Because the amount of radiation released is uncertain and the accident site is still leaking to some extent, it is difficult to know exactly what the peak concentrations of radioactive cesium will be in local waters, but it is not likely to exceed levels that were observed during the bomb fallout era 40 to 50 years ago. Cesium is chemically very similar to potassium, which is a common ionic salt in seawater, so fortunately the concentration of cesium into the foodweb and into seafood harvested for food is comparatively modest.

Nevertheless, it is important to put into perspective the potential risks involved and communicate this to the public. This talk will summarize the newest scientific information that is available on the impacts of the accident, based upon a special session held in late February at the Ocean Science Meeting in Honolulu and attended by scientists studying Fukushima impacts, ranging from Japan and East Asia to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

For more information, contact Tory O’Connell at 747-8878.

 

• How to weed through the conflicting information about Fukushima radiation and its impacts on Alaska waters

SalmonImage

Alaskans have been worried about their seafood ever since the March 2011 Fukushima earthquake and Japanese nuclear plant problems. It’s understandable that Alaskans are concerned about the safety of the seafood, seaweed and marine mammals in the area. But Alaskans also should note that most of the information posted on social marketing sites just isn’t true.

This NOAA map has been showing up on social media posts with a note that it shows the path of 300 tons of radioactive material entering the ocean each day. This map really shows the probable tsunami paths from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.

FALSE IMAGE: TSUNAMI WAVES, NOT RADIATION: Many people have posted on social media that this NOAA map shows the path of 300 tons of radioactive material entering the ocean each day. This map really shows the probable tsunami wave heights from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.

One of the biggest examples of false information usually is accompanied by an official-looking map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a note that each day the map shows 300 tons of radioactive material entering the water each day. The map is an official NOAA map, but it doesn’t show radiation. It actually shows the probable tsunami paths from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. When in doubt, or even if not, don’t be afraid to consult one of the myth-debunker sites such as Snopes.com, which has the details on the real story behind this map.

The Sitka Local Foods Network has been following the situation since it happened, and we even posted an update in March 2012 in hopes of easing people’s worries (many of the links on this page have been updated). The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services also has a site with updates.

In recent weeks, Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka) did some research, interviewing Dr. Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and one of the country’s top researchers on oceanographic radiation. Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins posted his findings in his Jan. 8 constituent newsletter, and that write-up also appeared in several Alaska publications such as the Alaska Dispatch.

010714_Fukushima-Radiation-GraphAlso in January, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Larry Hartig gave an update to the Alaska Senate’s Natural Resources Committee about what it’s doing to track the radiation, and he said so far the DEC hasn’t seen anything to cause concern. The Ketchikan website Stories In The News also had a follow-up story that included information from Hartic’s testimony and an update from Buesseler, who announced the launch of a new “How Radioactive Is Our Ocean?” website to help crowd-source information about what’s happening along the 5,000-mile Pacific coastline.

Taking things a step further, in January a couple of Seattle media organizations — KPLU and the Seattle Times — ran stories about Seattle fish-broker Loki Fish Co. ran its own tests on Alaska seafood. After the testing, the folks at Loki Fish Co. decided Pacific salmon is safe to eat.

• Aliens from Running of the Boots fundraiser show up in Daily Sitka Sentinel and Juneau Empire

Screenshot of the Daily Sitka Sentinel site on Monday with the aliens photo from the 2009 Running of the Boots

Screenshot of the Daily Sitka Sentinel site on Monday with the aliens photo from the 2009 Running of the Boots

Screenshot from Tuesday's Juneau Empire featuring the aliens photo from the Running of the Boots

Screenshot from Tuesday's Juneau Empire featuring the aliens photo from the Running of the Boots

The green-headed aliens were the hit of the Running of the Boots on Saturday, earning spots on the front page of the Daily Sitka Sentinel on Monday and in Tuesday’s issue of the Juneau Empire. The Running of the Boots is a fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network, and we greatly appreciate race founder Sheila Finkenbinder and the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce donating the proceeds from the event to our organization. A photo gallery from the race is posted just below this one, or click here to go directly to the gallery.

In other recent local foods news, Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein and her movie, “Eating Alaska,” are featured in Wednesday’s Anchorage Daily News. Ellen will be in Anchorage to show her film on Sunday night at the inaugural Alaska Local Food Film Festival, which runs Oct. 2-8 at Anchorage’s Beartooth Theatrepub and Grill.

Click here to read a “Local Flavor” column by chef Ginny Mahar about chanterelles from Sunday’s Juneau Empire, which local mushroom enthusiasts can find throughout Southeast Alaska about this time of the year. Ginny, who works for Rainbow Foods in Juneau, writes the Food-G blog where she has posted several recipes that use chanterelles. Chanterelles are popular this week, because Carla Peterson also writes about them in Capital City Weekly.

Click here to read a letter to the editor in Tuesday’s Juneau Empire about how to eat healthy foods on a budget. The letter, written by staff members from the Juneau office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, was in response to a Fairbanks Daily News-Miner story (that appeared later in the Juneau Empire) about Alaska lawmakers trying to live on food stamps for a week.

Click here to read a Seattle Times article about how Northwest cooks are falling in love with the sablefish (aka, black cod), a fish frequently caught in Sitka waters and available at the Sitka Farmers Market. The article includes a recipe.

Click here to read a blog post on The Atlantic Food Channel called “Local Food Comes To Alaska,” by New York University nutrition, food studies and public health professor Marion Nestle (author of “Food Politics,” “Safe Food,” “What To Eat,” and “Pet Food Politics,” as well as the “Food Matters” column for the San Francisco Chronicle).

If you haven’t visited the “Eat Local Northwest” blog, it’s worth a look. This blog is maintained by two friends — Stephen lives in the Mat-Su Valley and works in Anchorage, while Audrey is from the Seattle area. In the most recent post (as of Tuesday night), Stephen writes about his happy discovery that some of the prices at the South Anchorage Farmers Market actually were comparable or lower than what he was finding at several of local grocery stores. There is a link to this blog in our blog roll on the right side of the page.

Click here to read a story from KTUU-TV (Anchorage NBC affiliate) about Meyer’s Farm in Bethel, a project started by Tim Meyers that now involves a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program where local residents pay a fee and get weekly boxes of fresh, local produce. You can click a video link in the upper right corner, too. Meyer’s Farm was featured in the April 2009 issue of Alaska Magazine (link opens a PDF file of the article). There also is a Flickr photo gallery that shows nearly 100 photos of Meyer’s Farm.

Finally, the new farmers market near the White House isn’t about Alaska food, but it does promote and encourage people to eat local food. Click here for a story about the new farmers market on National Public Radio and click here for an article from the Washington Post. Click here for an article from USA Today about the growth of farmers markets across the nation.