Fallout Fish: The Giant Wolffish of Fukishima
It is all over the news today, pictures of this incredible fish caught not far from the site of the Fukishima nuclear power plant disaster from 2011. The wolffish is being reported as only being able to achieve a maximum length of 4 feet. This particular catch measures in at 6 feet. The giant specimen was caught by Hiroshi Hirasaka off the island of Hokkaido, close to eastern Russia. Due to the proximity of the catch to the Fukishima power plant, some people are speculating that the radiation which spilled in to the local waters is the cause of the fish to become ginormous.
Perhaps these speculators are jumping the gun. While the exact type of wolffish in this picture has yet to be identified by experts, there are some knows types of wolffish that can grow up to 6 feet in length, no nuclear radiation required. From Wikipedia:
The wolffish, also known as sea wolves, are a family, Anarhichadidae, of perciform fish. They are native to cold waters of the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, where they live on the continental shelf and slope, to depths of about 600 m (2,000 ft). They are bottom-feeders, eating hard-shelled invertebrates such as clams, echinoderms, and crustaceans, which they crush with their strong canine and molar teeth. The longest species, Anarrhichthys ocellatus, grows to more than 2 m (6.6 ft) in length.
Radiation can hurt ocean animals by killing them outright, creating “bizarre mutations” in their offspring, or passing radioactive material up the food chain. However, scientists are by no means convinced that the quantity of agents such as iodine and cesium are present enough to mutate locally found species of fish. The radioactive concentrations “would have to be orders of magnitude larger than what has been recorded in the waters close to the disaster site” according to scientists.
“I am very doubtful that direct effects of radioactivity from the damaged reactors on marine life over a large area off the coast of Japan will be observed,” says F. Ward Whicker, professor emeritus at Colorado State University.
If anything, perhaps we have discovered a new type of logical fallacy – the argument from proximity – which states that something which seems out of the ordinary can only be explained by it’s immediate environment.