Art, Aliens and Radiation…weird mix, right? But those three topics came together at our public event on Monday March 9, which we held to mark the fifth anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan on March 11, 2011, giving rise to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

We welcomed three experts to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre to open up the conversation about some of the biggest concerns about the impacts of the disaster that have emerged in B.C. in the years since.

We started by screening the National Film Board’s Debris. This beautiful short film by our first guest John Bolton follows a beachcomber and artist, Pete Clarkson, who discovers Japanese items on beaches near Tofino. The film highlighted the human impact of the tsunami, beyond the physical impact of debris and our cleanup efforts.

Cleaning up B.C. coastlines

Artist Pete Clarkson with some of the marine debris he’s found and incorporated into his art.

Next, we moved onto the topic that has easily been the most talked about since the tsunami: the impact of radiation from Fukushima on our coastline. Dr. Jay Cullen explained that while radiation can be detected in our seawater in B.C., the levels of radiation are far, far below any level that would be considered a threat to human health. His studies on ocean fish have not been able to detect Fukushima radiation. (Want to know more about radiation? Dr. Cullen translates scientific topics into easy-to-understand stories on his website.)

Our third speaker was Dr. Cathryn Clarke Murray, from the North Pacific Marine Science Organization. Dr. Murray spoke about the threat of invasive marine species arriving in B.C. on tsunami debris. She confirmed that there has only been one possible, but still unconfirmed, introduction of a Japanese species since the tsunami.

Dr. Cathryn Clarke Murray addressed concerns over the threat of invasive marine species arriving on Japanese tsunami debris.

Dr. Cathryn Clarke Murray addressed concerns over the threat of invasive marine species arriving on Japanese tsunami debris.

All three guests joined a panel discussion, which finished with the question: what have we learned since the tsunami? John Bolton pointed out that we can all be better prepared for natural disasters in B.C., while Dr. Murray learned that we don’t know as much about how the ocean operates as we thought we did. Dr. Cullen finished by saying that the tsunami taught him that there are lots of passionate people in our community who want to help the ocean.

Check out the webcast here. Dr. Cullen begins around 1:00; Dr. Murray at around 17:15. The panel conversation with all three speakers begins at 30:00. Join our next public program and be part of the conversation!

Blog by Kate Le Souef, manager, Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited, is a joint conservation initiative of the Vancouver Aquarium and WWF-Canada, supported by Ricoh Canada and YVR.

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