9 January, 16:43

Two-headed whale found in Mexico: is Fukushima radiation responsible?

Fishermen have found conjoined gray whale calves in a northwestern Mexican lagoon, a discovery that a government marine biologist described as "exceptionally rare." The four-meter (13-foot) long siamese whales were dead when they were discovered in the Ojo de Liebre lagoon, which opens to the Pacific Ocean in the Baja California peninsula. Could this be connected to radioactive water being dumped into the Pacific Ocean from the Fukushima nuclear plant?

Photo: AFP

Officials from the National Natural Protected Areas Commission (CONANP) verified the discovery during a visit on Monday.

The nearly half-tonne creatures were joined at the waist, with two full heads and tail fins, said Benito Bermudez, a marine biologist and CONANP's regional manager.

He described the discovery as "exceptionally rare, without any precedent" in the region.

Photo: AFP

Scientists are examining the whales and plan to look for any other cases in the gray whale's natural sanctuaries off Baja California.

Every winter, hundreds of gray whales migrate from the Bering Sea to the warmer waters of Baja California, attracting tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of the huge mamals.

Nearly 1,200 gray whales were spotted in the region in the 2012-2013 season.

According to experts, ocean currents carry harmful substances far away. Even in other parts of the world fish and seafood drawn from contaminated streams can be dangerous for humans, Maxim Shingarkin, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Natural Resources says.

"Currents in the World Ocean are so structured that the areas of seafood capture near the US north-west coast are more likely to contain radioactive nuclides than even the Sea of Okhotsk which is much closer to Japan."

Contaminated fish can swim anywhere, so fishing is not absolutely safe in any region of the world any more. It is impossible to test the entire catch for pollution, just as it is impossible to introduce a universal ban on fishing. The Japanese government has just partially banned fishing in the most dangerous areas. Vladimir Slivyak, Co-chairman of the Ecodefence international ecology group is speaking.

As for atmospheric pollution, radio nuclides from Fukushima reached California and Mexico 8 days after the accident. Russia was not affected, Maxim Shingarkin says.

Meanwhile, on Christmas Eve an unidentified author posted on YouTube a seven-minute video: a man holding a Geiger counter, a radiation detector, walks through Pacifica State Beach near San Francisco. The counter indicates fluctuating radiation levels – of up to 150 counts-per-minute at times, five times higher than normal.

The video's author says on his blog that he has been taking radiation measurements in the area for over two years. In late December he spotted a sudden increase in radiation which he claims to be the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear breakdown in Japan.

More than half a million people have viewed the video, titled "Fukushima hits San Francisco!", since it was uploaded to YouTube.

Scientists are skeptical however that there is any Fukushima-related radiation hitting California beaches in any detectible levels.

Higher-than-normal radiation levels at California beaches not related to Fukushima - scientists

Authorities in California have sent teams to measure radiation along the San Mateo County coast in response to a video posted on YouTube by an unidentified author, yet found nothing life-threatening. In a seven-minute video, a man holding a Geiger counter radiation detector is walking through Pacifica State Beach near San Francisco. The counter indicates fluctuating radiation levels – at times of up to 150 counts-per-minute or five times higher than normal.

The author of the video says on his blog that he has been taking radiation measurements in the area for over two years. In late December, he spotted a sudden increase in radiation which he claims to be the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear breakdown in Japan.

More than half a million people have viewed the video, titled "Fukushima hits San Francisco!", since it was uploaded to YouTube on Christmas Eve.

Local health officials conducted an independent survey and confirmed "higher-than-typical" radiation readings but denied that there was any "immediate public health concern".

Nevertheless, they forwarded the matter to the US Environmental Protection Agency. So far, it’s not clear if any further inquiry will follow.

The controversial video has fueled fears that radioactive waste generated by the Fukushima disaster might affect the US coast.

But scientists are skeptical that there is any Fukushima-related radiation hitting California beaches in any detectible levels.

"Recent tests show that elevated levels of radiation at Half Moon Bay are due to naturally occurring materials and not radioactivity associated with the Fukushima incident… There is no public health risk at California beaches due to radioactivity related to events at Fukushima," said Wendy Hopkins, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Public Health.

"The radionuclides are in the NORM class of radioactive substances, not from Fukushima," echoed Dan Sythe, CEO for International Medcom, which designs and manufactures Geiger Counters.

Sythe had a sample of sand from the beach sent to him and, having tested it, is "convinced that there is no link to Fukushima". The radioactive areas of the beach seem to him to be associated with dark sand below the high tide level.

"The levels detected are about five to 10 times what you would normally expect to find on a beach," he said. "But if the sand were contaminated by radiation from Fukushima it would show cesium-137 which is reported to be the major health concern in Fukushima."

Instead he got radium and thorium, which are naturally occurring radioactive elements.

Experts have been monitoring fish from the Pacific and while microscopic levels of cesium were found in blue fin tuna, most recent tests reveal that even those small levels are declining.

Read more:

- Fukushima Steam a catastrophic sign: 89 tons of deadly radioactive fuel could reach US soon

- Are Americans safe from Fukushima radiation?

- Nuclear watchdog suggests Fukushima plant dump toxic water into ocean

Voice of Russia, AFP, CBS, RT

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