Thursday, July 6, 2017

Fukushima Daiichi and California Tidal Life in La Jolla

This post is a follow-up from my previous posts regarding ocean life conditions in La Jolla California’s tidepools.

In the summer of 2011, my family and I noticed a significant (almost total) reduction in sand and hermit crabs in La Jolla tidal life at Wynd and Sea Beach and at the Cove, locations I’ve frequented extensively since 1984 (I lived in Pacific Beach from 84-89 and returned annually through 2011).

Please see my post about the poor condition of tide pools in 2011 at Wynd and Sea Beach in La Jolla.
I was so distressed by the collapse of tidal life in the summer of 2011 that we did not return to La Jolla for 5 years. In 2016, we visited again and saw that life was slowly returning

However, sea lions and seals were experiencing unprecedented infant mortality at that time, a trend that had started in 2012. You can read my posts about the sea lion adverse mortality events here:
2016 Majia's Blog: California Sea Lions, the Blob, and Fukushima Daiichi
Southern California beaches were first hit with Fukushima fallout via precipitation in 2011. Here is a scientific source documenting Fukushima contamination in Southern California kelp:
S. Manley and C. Lowe (6 March 2012) ‘Canopy-Forming Kelps as California’s Coastal Dosimeter: 131I from Damaged Japanese Reactor Measured in Macrocystis Pyrifera’, Environmental Science & Technology,

In 2013, a radioactive plume of water arrived in Southern California according to one group of researchers. Stan-Sion, Enachescu, and Pietre identified arrival of the ocean-borne plume of radionuclides from the initial days of the Fukushima disaster in La Jolla, California, evidenced by a 2.5 factor increase in Iodine-129 and Iodine-127 activity peaking June 18 2013 (date collection ended July 2013):

C. Stan-Sion, M. Enachescu, and A. R. Petre, “AMS analyses of I-129 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in the Pacific Ocean waters of the Coast La Jolla – San Diego, USA” Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 17(5)(2015): 932-938 DOI: 10.1039/C5EM00124B
A separate study modeling dilution declines of Cesium 137 published in Environmental Research Letters predicted that after seven years the ‘total peak radioactivity levels would still be about twice the pre-Fukushima values’ off the coastal waters of North America’:
E. Behrens, F. Schwarzkopf, J. Lübbecke, and C. Böning (2012) ‘Model Simulations on the Long-Term Dispersal of 137Cs Released into the Pacific Ocean off Fukushima’, Environ. Res. Lett., 7.3,
Blogger Nuke Pro suggested that the destruction of tidal life could be explained by bioaccumulation of radionuclides, such as strontium, in chitin:
Nuke Pro. 2016. Thursday, February 11, 2016. A Scientific Basis For Destruction Of Ocean Food Chain Via Radiation
Nuke Pro. 2016. Mechanism By Which Radiation Destroys "Chitin" Which Destroys The Ocean Food Chains and Bees
We just returned from La Jolla yesterday and I’d like to update observations. 

The good news is that tidal life in La Jolla’s tide pools appears to have largely recovered. We saw several varieties of crabs, including the sand and hermit crabs that had disappeared from the pools in 2011. We also saw small fish in the pools. The quantity and diversity of tidal life was much improved, although perhaps not as abundant as before Fukushima.

Here is an image of one odd creature we discovered:

The sea lion situation was more complicated. First, it is difficult for me to make direct before-and-after-comparisons for the sea lions because they moved into La Jolla cove within the last 10 years or so.

That said, I was disturbed to see a small abandoned sea lion cub. The surfer in the picture said he had pulled it out of the water two days ago when it was drowning. The cub was dying a slow death and it was heartbreaking.