Support From IAEA

Lyla Lemari collects window-screen samples of algea

Jessie Capelle collects sediments from different benthic habitats.

Workshop participants-identify different planktons in a lecture series.

Lyla Lemari and Jessie Capelle isolate algae from collected sample seawater.

"The dispersion of radioactive contamination from Fukushima through the air and by ocean currents highlighted the need to develop a radiological assessment capacity in the Marshall Islands."


Agency assists in three key areas

Work in 2015 with the International Atomic Energy Agency focused on three areas:

  • Harmful Algal Bloom Studies in the Asia-Pacific: Throughout the region, Small Island Developing States are under treat from seafood toxicity caused by marine algae blooms. Increased land-based activities by people that lead to eutrophication, typhoons and weather events that cause reef destruction, and significant changes in global climate are causing increased frequency and intensity of harmful algae blooms (HAB). Some countries in the region are facing potentially deadly paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) syndrome problems despite monitoring programs. This disease is a potential threat on a global scale and new proposed seafood safety requirements for fish imported to the United States and elsewhere could negatively impact countries such as the Marshall Islands with export fisheries industries. The IAEA is supporting work in the Marshall Islands with MIMRA and other agencies as part of a regional program for the "Use of Receptor Binding Assay to Reduce the Adverse Impacts of Harmful Algal Toxins on Seafood Safety." A primary aim is to strengthen HAB monitoring capabilities. In addition to the IAEA, this projext is additionally supported by funding from the Peaceful Use Initiative of the United States. Countries involved include Australia, New Zealand, Palau, Republic of Korea, Thailand and Philippines in close collaboration with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ILM and IOC-UNESCO.
  • Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP) and Field Monitoring Workshop, Tahiti, French Polynesia: This workshop together with the Second Coordination Meeting was held at Institute Louis Malarde, Tahiti, French Polynesia during March 2015. The workshop on CFP Field Monitoring one-week duration. The participants and experts were then divided into three subgroups based on research specialization. The groups collectively developed detailed work plans to achieve to objectives of the RAS7026 project: 1) Receptor Binding Assay (RBA) method validation; 2) establishment of effective CFP monitoring strategies, and; 3) data management for compilation of shared regional CFP status information. Results from the subgroups was shared and discussed by the full membership, modifications incorporated, and the final work plan for the project accepted.
  • Developing a National Radioactivity Monitoring Capacity: This project involving MIMRA and the Marshall Islands EPA is developing skills among staff in the two agencies to measure artificial radionuclides in the marine, terrestrial and coastal environment of the Marshall Islands. The Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in Japan in 2011 released a large volume of Cesium 137 and Cesium 134 into Pacific Ocean. The dispersion of radioactive contamination from fukushima through the air and by ocean currents highlighted the need to develop a radiological assessment capacity in the Marshall Islands. Develop baseline data on artificial radionuclides entering terrestrial waters of the Marshall Islands will document any direct impacts associated with the Fukushima accident or any future nuclear accident. The U.S. atmospheric nuclear weapons testing program at Bikini and Enewetak atolls in the northern Marshall Islands (1946-58) had a profound impact on the environment and health of the people in the Marshall Islands. The nuclear test program left behind a legacy of distrust of U.S. scientific authorities and many unanswered questions. Some of the affected islands have partnered with U.S. government agencies to improve radiological surveillance measures. Today, however, the Marshall Islands government has no independent capacity to monitor marine and terrestrial foods, air, water and soil for radioactivity. This program is helping the Marshall Islands to develop this capability. The Marshall Islands needs to be able to make informed decisions on issues related to radiation exposure, remediation and resettlement of islands, and radiological safety and health, based on its own independent research. This program is working to develop this capacity through expert missions to assess and improve the EPA laboratory. fellowships for MIMRA and EPA staff at international laboratories, visits to the IAEA laboratory in Monaco, and training on radiation sampling.
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