Safeguarding Our Seafood
Since time immemorial, Nuu-chah-nulth people have harvested and eaten ocean foods. Our culture, health, and livelihood depend on them. Yet after the 2011 accident at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan, some Nuu-chah-nulth began to ask if local seafood was safe to eat.
Not only do ocean foods feed our communities, but we eat them in much higher quantities than other Canadians. If radioactive contaminants are present in our food, the risk to our health could therefore be much greater than the average person. In 2014, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC), with funds from the First Nations Health Authority, partnered with the Vancouver Aquarium and Simon Fraser University to find out whether or not radiation from the Fukushima accident was present in our seafood.
Seafood is very important to Nuu-chah-nulth people. The study found average total seafood consumption to be 52.8 kg/year–that’s six times higher than the average Canadian (236 kg/year compared to 8.8 kg/year). Researchers found no Fukushima-related radiation in kelp or crab and very low levels of radiation from the Fukushima accident in half of the sockeye salmon sampled but levels were so low that there were no risks to human health.
Can I safely Eat Seafood Now?
Our study showed that three types of seafood commonly eaten by Nuu-chah-nulth people are safe to eat. Let’s keep monitoring our seafood to ensure the foods we love remain safe for our communities, now and into the future.
Click HERE for a downloadable copy of the Safeguarding Our Seafood poster.
Cheewaht Sockeye Surveys
From mid-October to mid-November, Uu-a-thluk staff partner with Ditidaht Fisheries to conduct visual surveys in the main tributary of Cheewaht Lake for sockeye salmon. The Cheewhat Lake tributary is an indicator stream for other tributaries entering the lake. Walking the stream to perform visual counts provides general information about sockeye abundance trends and habitat issues.
Ucluelet Harbour Crab Surveys
Uu-a-thluk previously worked with Ucluelet First Nation to address the lack of information about the life cycles and health of crabs in Ucluelet Harbour. Together, Uu-a-thluk and UFN Fisheries studied crab abundance, male/female ratio and movement, as well as catch effort, and food needs of membership. The partnership also submitted crab samples to test for heavy metal contamination.
Sea Otter Recovery: Although sea otter recovery is a controversial topic in some communities where people depend on the foods harvested by the growing sea otter population, Nuu-chah-nulth Nations were actively involved in assisting with recovery efforts. In 2000, Uu-a-thluk began a Sea Otter Assessment and Education Project. Working with Nuu-chah-nulth fisheries guardians and technicians, as well as with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the NTC’s fisheries biologists conducted biological surveys, facilitated oil spill response training, conducted community mapping, and raised awareness about the return of the sea otter to the west coast of Vancouver Island (WCVI). Learn more about our work with sea otters.
Sea Lice Monitoring
The Clayoquot Sound Sea Lice Working Group is a collaborative monitoring effort between salmon farmers and local First Nations environmental stewards. Beginning in 2004, the Clayoquot Sound Sea Lice Working Group monitored the prevalence and density of sea lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis and Caligus clemensi) on wild salmonid smolts throughout Clayoquot Sound. The results were published in two reports: