Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


Research into muttonbird exposure to Fukushima radiation

New funding for research into muttonbird exposure to Fukushima radiation

Scientists from the University of Auckland will undertake research to test whether New Zealand muttonbirds that spend the winter off the coast of Japan may have been exposed to radiation from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Scientists from the University of Auckland will undertake research to test whether New Zealand muttonbirds that spend the winter off the coast of Japan may have been exposed to radiation from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The new research is being funded by the Lottery Health Research fund with $26,028 for a pilot study to investigate whether radioactive cesium has entered the New Zealand ecosystem or food chain via the birds.

Researchers will test the birds’ feathers for gamma rays that indicate the presence of the radioactive isotope cesium-134. Feathers will be collected from prime muttonbird sites in the South Island, particularly Stewart Island.

New Zealand sooty shearwaters or titi (Puffinus griseus) migrate annually, spending the summer mating and raising their chicks in New Zealand before over-wintering off the coast of Japan.

“There is no evidence to indicate that the birds have been vectors of radioactivity so this research is very much about taking a precautionary approach,” says Dr David Krofcheck of the University of Auckland’s Department of Physics.

“But detection of gamma rays would tell us whether the birds spend sufficient time near Fukushima to accumulate cesium-134 from nuclear fission. Obviously the issue would then become whether that radioactivity is being absorbed into local ecosystems or the food chain.”

Pacific Bluefin tuna caught off the west coast of the United States show only a minute trace of cesium-134 from Fukushima, 100 times less than normal radioactive elements found in fish.

The sooty shearwater is of cultural and economic value to Maori, who sustainably harvest the nearly fledged chicks during the annual muttonbird season. The season runs from April to May and is restricted to Maori and their whanau who use the birds for food, oil and feather down.

Dr Krofcheck says consultation with Maori, the Rakiura Titi Islands Administering Body, about the research will begin as soon as possible.

“We will need to go through a number of approval processes and engage in consultation with local people before anything can happen as there are sensitive issues to consider before work can begin,” Dr Krofcheck says.

The research is being done in collaboration with the Department of Zoology, University of Otago.

Previous tests on muttonbird exposure to radiation from Fukushima found no evidence of cesium being passed from parents to chicks.

“Our study is complementary to that earlier work but tests feathers instead of the birds themselves,” Dr Krofcheck says. “Obviously what we are hoping to find in this latest research is that cesium levels in muttonbirds do not exceed exposure levels you would expect from natural sources.”

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Finance: Major Campaign To End "Gross Overtaxation Of Savings"

The campaign – which includes a special web site through which New Zealanders can e-mail their own and other MPs and party leaders – is backed by Age Concern, Consumer NZ, the Financial Services Council and the Taxpayers’ Union. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Leighton-Led WGP To Build, Manage Transmission Gully

The Wellington Gateway Partnership, led by a unit of ASX-listed Leighton Holdings, has won the $1 billion contract to build the Transmission Gully road north of Wellington. More>>

ALSO:

Gareth Morgan: The Government’s Fresh Water Policy – Revisited

Fresh water quality is the latest area to be in the sights of Gareth Morgan and his research organisation The Morgan Foundation... They found that the fresh water policy was a bit murkier than the Environment Minister let on. More>>

ALSO:

Interest Rates: RBNZ Hikes OCR To 3.5%, ‘Period Of Assessment’ Now Needed

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler raised the official cash rate as expected, while signalling a pause in rate hikes to assess the impact of moves so far this year. The kiwi dollar sank after Wheeler said its strength was “unjustified” and that the currency could have “a significant fall.” More>>

ALSO:

Fonterra: Canpac Site 'Resize' To Focus More On Paediatrics

Fonterra is looking at realigning its packing operations at Canpac, in the Waikato, to focus more on paediatric nutritionals... The proposed changes could mean around 110 roles may not be required at the site which currently employs 330. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Postie Plus Brand Gets 2nd Chance With Well-Funded Pepkor

The Postie Plus brand is getting a new lease of life after South Africa’s Pepkor bought the failed retailer’s assets out of administration and said it will use its purchasing power to reduce costs of stock and fatten margins. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
Computer Power Plus

Standards New Zealand

Standards New Zealand
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news