A study by the University of Auckland is investigating whether radioactive cesium has entered the New Zealand ecosystem or food chain via the shearwaters, known in New Zealand as muttonbirds.
Physicist David Krofcheck told NZ Newswire that the “detection of gamma rays would tell us whether the birds spend sufficient time near Fukushima to accumulate cesium-134 from nuclear fission.”
Vast amounts of contaminated water from the meltdown-plagued Fukushima Daiichi plant have poured into the Pacific since the disaster began in March 2011.
Fish have since been measured with unsafe levels of nuclear contamination.
Because the shearwaters feed on seafood, it is feared the long-haul birds could be carrying radioactive debris for many thousands of miles around the Pacific Rim.