Giant squid hoax prompts another rash of concern about Fukushima radiation

(Courtesy: YouTube)

Well, there are fish stories, and then there are fish stories*.

Over the weekend, reports of two different giant squids surfaced on the internet; however, whereas one was true, one was very, very false.

A Japanese fisherman was casting his nets for amberjack fish about a kilometre off the coast when he pulled up a surprising catch — a massive squid that measured over four metres long, and weighing in at around 160 kilograms!

This video (in Japanese) captured the story and showed off the enormous size of the cephalopod, along with some rather humorous comparisons:

This, by no means, is the largest of these squids that we've seen, as they can grow to around 14 metres in length. But Shigenori Goto, the fisherman who caught it, told the media "This is the first time I've seen such a large squid."

According to The Telegraph, the squid was taken to a local government institute to be researched.

The other squid story to got our attention is where things start to smell a bit off.

Apparently, a truly colossal squid washed up on shore in California, and fingers were being pointed squarely in the direction of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

As Ms. Rhodes points out in a followup tweet, you never can tell when it comes to the internet and Photoshop these days. This one, however, is definitely a fake.

The picture itself is suspect; it just doesn't look right. There's an attempt to put shadows in, but the lighting just looks completely different from its surroundings. And then there's the name of the news source that broke the story ("Lightly Braised Turnip"), the phone number the Santa Marino Police Department apparently gave to call if you saw it (1-800-BIG-FISH), and the fact that there's no such place as 'Santa Marino.' All of which are clear signs that this report is likely a ruse.

Like every myth and legend (urban or not), there is a nugget of truth to this, though. It was definitely a giant squid that washed up on shore. However, it was 10 metres long, not 50 metres long, and it didn't wash up in California last week, it washed up on the coast of northern Spain, back in early October.

Also, contrary to the story, the oarfish found washed up on shore in California back in October wasn't 100 feet long, and scientists are not blaming Fukushima radiation for either that or this squid.

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There's a lot of talk going around about radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi plant reaching the west coast of North America, and it's apparently being blamed for nearly everything under the sun — from stories like this one, to die-offs of aquatic populations, to elevated radiation levels in beach sand, and even how it's damaging the thyroids of California babies.

However, reports such as True facts about Ocean Radiation and the Fukushima Disaster and All The Best, Scientifically Verified, Information on Fukushima Impacts, from Deep Sea News, prove that any supposedly 'elevated' radiation levels along the west cost of the United States are due to naturally-occurring sources, not the cesium-137 that was released from Fukushima. Also, the LA Times reported on Sunday that any cesium detected in fish shortly after the 2011 earthquake were very low and have even fallen since then.

The bottom line: take these kinds of fish stories with a grain of salt. And although the situation at Fukushima definitely needs to be monitored, be careful about all the disinformation floating around about it.

*squid aren't actually fish, of course, but 'cephalopod story' doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

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