Home > Man-Made Disasters, Mass Animal Deaths > Study: Fukushima Meltdown May Be Responsible For Decline In New Zealand’s Muttonbird Population, The ‘Most Unusual Event’ In 20 Years Of Studies

Study: Fukushima Meltdown May Be Responsible For Decline In New Zealand’s Muttonbird Population, The ‘Most Unusual Event’ In 20 Years Of Studies


By Paul Harper, NZ Herald – “The meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may be responsible for a decline in New Zealand’s muttonbird population.

A Department of Conservation study found only two-thirds of birds returned to an area near Auckland, after spending the northern summer in Japan – some only 20km from the plant, which was crippled in Japan’s earthquake and tsunami in March last year.

The birds return to New Zealand in November to mate, but DOC seabird researcher Graeme Taylor told Radio New Zealand the ones that returned were in poor condition.

“We won’t know if they’ve died up there in the north Pacific until another year goes by, because sometimes these birds skip a breeding season- where if they are in a poor condition they don’t attempt to breed, and so they may turn up again and breed.

‘But if the birds never turn up again then you have to start to wonder what’s gone on with the population.’

Mr Taylor said the research only looked at a small sub-sample of the breeding population, but it was the drop in numbers was the ‘most unusual event’ in 20 years of studies of the birds’ numbers.” Read more.

Flashback: Fears radioactive muttonbirds headed for New Zealand – “There are fears radioactive muttonbirds could be on their way to New Zealand after the migrating birds were found to have been feeding close to Japan’s ruptured Fukushima nuclear plant. Niwa scientists, who in 2005 attached tracking devices to 19 muttonbirds, also known as sooty shearwaters, found nearly half of them were spending months at a time feeding off the coast of Japan. US researchers have requested samples of dead muttonbirds so they can be analysed, with the expectation that some of them will have absorbed the radioactive isotope Caesium-137, an element that strongly increases the chances of getting cancer.” Read more.

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